Dunlap: JuJu Is What It's All About

Steelers WR has become most radiant star

Colin Dunlap
December 17, 2018 - 1:35 pm

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

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This is what it's all about it. 

JuJu Smith-Schuster is what it's all about. An effervescent, young and delightful young talent having a football-crazy city like Pittsburgh in the palm of his hand and the city going nuts in kind. 

Oh is this fun or what? Yes, this is what it is all about. JuJu is what it is all about. 

I don't know about you, but I couldn't be having more fun right now watching Smith-Schuster come of age in this town --- a town that has embraced him and, conversely, he has embraced fully since he was draft and subsequently made us all forget about Martavis Bryant. And Sunday served as another prime example. 

So, there it was, among the throng of black-and-gold clad fans in Steeler Nation outside of Heinz Field a few hours before kickoff, the oh-so recognizable JuJu in a bright reddish-orangish, definitely expensive-ish suit standing there arm and arm with the beer drinkers. He was there at a tailgate grabbing a burger and chopping it up with the people who bust their tails at "regular jobs" all year to put aside a little extra dough so they can afford season tickets each season, plunk down cash for overpriced parking and get into the lot early and have some beers and good times. 

JuJu made his way to the tailgate and smiles flashed across the face of everyone. People asked for selfies, he was the life of the party and it was instant smiles, smiles and more smiles. Because that's what JuJu brings as a kid --- and he's still just a "kid" --- who is barely 22 years old. He brings smiles every place he goes. In his youthful innocence I couldn't be happier he's playing in Pittsburgh, a place big enough where he's getting noticed around the NFL, but small enough that it's just like a small town where seemingly everyone knows everyone else. 

It also appears everyone in Pittsburgh (in just his short time here) already has a personal story about JuJu. More to the point, he's so engaging that he makes it feel like everyone knows JuJu, even if you've only met him in passing or through the television or social media. 

From the time that he got his bike stolen and the city rallied around him to when he dressed up (as hilariously himself) for Halloween and hit area streets trick-or-treating, JuJu has simply been embracing the heck out of his opportunity and new-found stardom while taking his business seriously but his life not too seriously. What a way to live, huh? That seems perfect to me, and again, I'm glad we get to see all this play out because of the kind of character JuJu has been in our community.  

You see, I have 7-year-old twins and I caught a few bits and pieces of when they had some friends over on Sunday. They were playing football in the basement and playacting who they wanted to be. A few years ago, it would have been a no-brainer --- everyone would have wanted to be Antonio Brown. Not so on Sunday. The kids didn't want to be AB or Ben or even James Conner on this day. To a man (a kid in this case) they all wanted to be JuJu. His was the name that shot to the top of the list. They all connected with him; they all giggled when they heard his name and spoke glowingly positive about him. One kid who was over the house who is a friend of my twins happened to show up in a JuJu jersey.

JuJu is quickly rivaling, if not surpassing, Antonio Brown as the star of the people here in Pittsburgh. 

He's got that kind of impact. JuJu has that kind of charm and magnetic appeal. He really is what it is all about. 

But the thing is, it would be nothing if he didn't have the talent. His talent matches his personality as the Steelers targeted JuJu early in the Patriots game and he ended up catching four passes for 40 yards including a brilliant 22-yard completion. On the season he has reeled in 95 passes for 1,274 yards and six touchdowns --- and who could forget the TD he scored that went for 97 yards? Simply put, without JuJu coming into his own, the Steelers might be in enormous trouble right now in the playoff race. Without his development, let's call it what it is, they might be out of the playoff race. 

His play has people around the league noticing as Patriots coach Bill Belichick made a point to talk about Smith-Schuster both in the run-up to the Sunday game and then in postgame. Such a gesture appeared to catch JuJu off guard as he tweeted: “Crazy to have Coach Belichick, a legendary coach I’ve watched my whole life, come up to me after the game and tell me he respects my game and how I play!!!”

He's young.

He's having the time of his life.

He's talented on the field and connects with fans off the field like few in the city have.

JuJu has a way with people, he has a smile that beams from seemingly Butler to Beltzhoover and to Beaver Falls and Blairsville and everywhere in between. Kids love him, ladies swoon for him and guys get a chuckle out of his antics and wish, even for one microsecond, they had his athletic ability. 

Know this: we are seeing a burgeoning superstar develop in front of us, Pittsburgh.

We are seeing a guy becoming one of the finest in the NFL and having one helluva time as he does it. 

This is what it's all about.