If you look at the Steelers roster, the wide receiver position in particular, there is one thing that will stand out immediately.
This is a young group.
And the one leading the group into the 2019 season is just 22-years old. While he might be young, JuJu Smith-Schuster isn’t inexperienced.
“With the experience I played, at this point age is just a number,” said Smith-Schuster. “I’ve played enough games where I am able to take on this. It’s just another challenge we have to deal with.
“I think I can be a role model for that room. I can take on that challenge. That is what I have been doing, being the leader and trying to contribute like everybody else. I am already vocal. I am vocal as a person. Just in general that is how I am. There is no need for me to go out of my way and yell at the guys. We are all adults here. We know right from wrong. Everyone just works. We all have a voice in the room. It’s not just mine. I like to have a little voice. Being a young guy in the room, 22, I feel like my dog, my French bulldog barking at everybody. But at the same time they have dogs here who can bark. I like that role.”
Entering his third season with the team, Smith-Schuster is the team’s No. 1 receiver, but he knows that it’s not all about him, that it’s about the entire group working together to reach the ultimate goal.
“It’s super exciting,” Smith-Schuster started off when talking about being the No. 1 guy. “But, I don’t think about it like that. It’s not about being the No. 1 guy. Yes, you have the No. 1 quarterback and the No. 1 running back, but at the end of the day it’s a collective game. The only way you move the ball is if all 11 make plays and do their job. That’s what it’s going to take to win the Super Bowl.”
Smith-Schuster is taking over the No. 1 role that was held by Antonio Brown, who was traded to the Oakland Raiders in the offseason. Brown didn’t leave without making comments that didn’t sit well with Steelers fans about his former teammates, but Smith-Schuster handled it like a mature, seasoned veteran.
“At the end of the day that is his opinion,” said Smith-Schuster. “For myself, I stand from afar. I am not worried about what he has going on and his team. I wish him nothing but the best. He is a great player. As for myself, I am worrying about the guys we have here, my teammates, and how I can be great on the field and off the field.”
Smith-Schuster was asked if he will be watching the stat sheet throughout the year, comparing himself to what Brown is doing. He immediately squashed anything like that happening.
“I am looking at mine, my own team,” said Smith-Schuster. “I am fine. I would take five catches for 30 yards and win the game, than have 10 catches and two touchdowns. It’s not about myself. It’s about the Super Bowl. All we want to do is win.”
One thing that Smith-Schuster knows will happen more this year with Brown gone is him getting double-coverage. But it’s nothing new, and something he will be ready for.
“No doubt,” he said. “We dealt with that against the Patriots last year. They doubled me and AB. It wasn’t anything new. This year it’s going to be the same thing. I am going to being getting the same coverages, the double. We’ve got guys like (Donte) Moncrief, James (Washington), we have the new wide receiver, Diontae (Johnson). We have so many guys who can make plays. I am not worried about that.”
Another thing he isn’t worried about is the attitude in the locker room. The offseason ‘drama’ has dissipated and there truly is a singular focus – winning.
“There is so much motivation for everyone,” said Smith-Schuster. “We have guys, Moncrief, James Conner, it’s his time now. It’s always been his time. We are going to rock with who we have in the locker room. Whoever is in that huddle, the 11 men, that’s who we are going to rock with.
“The chemistry is on point. Everyone is on the same page. Everyone is on point. There is no drama in the locker room.”