JuJu: 'It amazed me'

He couldn't help but smile when I asked JuJu Smith-Schuster what stood out from his rookie season.

There were so many exciting moments for the rookie receiver, who emerged as a threat for the offense with his big-play capability and breakaway speed.

It didn't take long for Smith-Schuster to come up with the answer.

"The whole bike thing. Just because…the bike," said Smith-Schuster, smiling ear to ear. "That shows how much love the fans have for the Steelers. For me it meant a lot. At the time, me riding my bike to work every day was my only transportation. When all of Pittsburgh grasped that it meant a lot to me and I got my bike back. That meant a lot to me." 

The bike. Oh yes, how couldn't it be the bike? When Smith-Schuster, who didn't have a driver's license, had his bike stolen during the season, he went to social media to share the sadness. It blew up, and flung Smith-Schuster into a national spotlight with news networks talking about the stolen bike.

"It amazed me," said Smith-Schuster. "That is why it was the best thing that happened this year. It was crazy. I didn't expect it to go like that. It went viral, not just in Pittsburgh, but across the world. That is how much power this city and Steelers Nation has. I was stunned."

There was more to his rookie year, though. A lot more. Smith-Schuster finished the season with 58 receptions for 917 yards and seven receiving touchdowns. He also had two of the most exciting plays not just of the Steelers season, but the NFL overall. 

In Week 8 against the Lions he had seven receptions for 193 yards, including the 97-yard touchdown catch from Ben Roethlisberger, where he caught the ball short and took off running, the longest pass play in Steelers' history, and tied for the longest offensive play in team history.

In Week 17 he helped lead the Steelers to a win over the Browns when he took a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, the first kickoff returned for a touchdown by the Steelers since Antonio Brown did so his rookie year when he took one 89 yards.

Being mentioned in that same stratosphere as Brown is something that has meaning for Smith-Schuster. He looks at the veteran receiver as the prime example to learn from, a perfect role model who does it the right way every time he takes the field.

"When you have a leader like him. You want to follow a leader," said Smith-Schuster. "He has done it. Look where he is at. Why not follow him?"

Watching Brown has been eye-opening for Smith-Schuster, who has watched him do the impossible day after day.

"Watching him I learned that I can say wow 15 times in one day, and still say wow 15 times the next day," said Smith-Schuster. "The little things he taught me, I don't even know how to explain it. Having AB around is awesome. It increases the level of competition every day.

"This offseason I want to work on running routes. That is huge for me. I am trying to get like AB. Trying to be lit."

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