Award season is in full effect at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, and David DeCastro and JuJu Smith-Schuster were both honored by the Pittsburgh Chapter of Pro Football Writers of America.
DeCastro was named the recipient of the "The Chief Award," which was established in honor of Steelers' founder, Arthur J. Rooney, Sr., and is presented annually to a member of the Steelers' organization that best exemplifies the spirit of cooperation with the media that he embodied.
"I've come a long way since 2012," said DeCastro. "I learned a lot. Respect what you guys do. I am always heto help." DeCastro is a player who is always available in the locker room, through the good and the bad, and gives well-thought out and insightful answers whenever he is approached by the media.
DeCastro has started 81 of the 82 games he has played in his six seasons with the Steelers. The team's former No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft has been selected to the Pro Bowl three consecutive years, and his streak of 71 consecutive games starting is the longest streak among active NFL guards.
"He's getting better every year," said offensive line coach Mike Munchak. "He enjoys what he does. He enjoys the game, and he's very consistent in everything he does. There's nothing he can't do. He's good at everything."
Smith-Schuster, the Steelers' second-round draft selection in 2017, received the "Joe Greene Great Performance Award," given annually to the Steelers top rookie.
"It's an honor. It's a blessing," said Smith-Schuster. "Without Ben (Roethlisberger) and the offensive linemen and my teammates. It means a lot. To be honored (with an award) named after one of the greatest players who ever came through, Joe Greene. I give it up to all of the rookies. They played their butt off. We still have one more game left and we have to still keep fighting."
Smith-Schuster has played in 13 games this season, starting six of them. He has 49 receptions for 774 yards and six touchdowns, which have come with the some of the NFL's most imaginative touchdown celebrations.
He has proven to be a big-play threat for the offense, with a 97-yard touchdown reception against the Lions under his belt.
"It's exciting to see a University of Southern California wide receiver come to Pittsburgh, be a player and have an impact," said Lynn Swann. "It kind of reminds me of someone I know."
Swann, the Steelers Hall of Fame receiver, was named USC's AD in April, 2016, so he got to see first-hand what Smith-Schuster could do in his final season with the Trojans. And now Swann, one of the best ever to play the game, is watching the rookie have great success with the same team he played his entire NFL career for.
"I remember my rookie year, the first game I played, the first pass that was thrown to me was from Joe Gilliam," recalled Swann. "It was for a touchdown it gave me that instant feeling of I can do this, I can be a player here, I can start, and I can have an impact. I think for JuJu, coming in and getting a chance to play it's about proving to yourself first, your teammates second, and your city third that you can play. In his first year JuJu has done that already.
"He has brought his own brand. It's a little bit of what we have seen from really talented receivers in the past, his ability to make tough catches, get in the end zone. His ability to block reminds you of Hines Ward, seeing him blocking downfield. And making those catches when he gets those opportunities."
Swann isn't the only one with a bust in Canton, Ohio that likes what he sees from Smith-Schuster.
"I like the excitement he brings," said fellow Steelers' Hall of Famer John Stallworth. "It seems to be contagious within the team, within Steelers Nation. It's great to see. What he does, and the way he does it, is a new dimension to us. The tough catch, the run with it afterwards, in tough situations."