Rising to the occasion: When the Steelers take on the Bengals on Monday Night Football, it will be the team's fourth primetime game this season, and the results have been pretty good so far as they are 3-0.
"We rise to the occasion," said Stephon Tuitt. "We love the spotlight, clearly. It doesn't make anyone nervous, nobody runs away from it. We just go out there, do our job, and do it the best that we can."
Tuitt said there is just something about being in that national spotlight, the only game on at the time, that just gets the juices flowing and he and his teammates embrace it.
"Everybody is watching you," said Tuitt. "I like playing when everybody is watching you. We all like it. You have a chance to showcase your skills and talents across the world. Everybody is watching the two teams playing on that night."
Tuitt said the key to being successful when you play night games, is treating it the same way you do any other game.
"For us, we should consider it a normal day," said Tuitt. "If we are trying to go where we are trying to go, we should not allow times that we play to be a roadblock. We have to be able to adapt to whatever time it is and be ready to play."
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Ready for a battle: When the Steelers and Bengals meet, you can always expect a battle, sometimes of epic proportions.
"It's like the scene in the 'Lord of the Rings' where they have to fight the huge, giant monsters. That is what playing the Bengals is," said Alejandro Villanueva. "They are a very physical team, they are very talented up front. They always play consistently hard. We are going to have our hands full. Monday night, at their place, it's going to be by far the biggest challenge for us." Making an impact: Lynn Swann smiled sheepishly as he talked about JuJu Smith-Schuster, a player the USC athletic director is very familiar with.
"It's exciting to see a University of Southern California wide receiver come to Pittsburgh, be a player and have an impact," said 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. We needed to have that. I think when he, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant are all clicking, it's difficult to stop our passing game."
Both Swann and Stallworth see a ton of potential still to come out of Smith-Schuster, and have high expectations for him.
"It's a long road," said Swann. "A couple of years ago when I was back here in Pittsburgh Antonio said let me rub your hands a little bit. I said Antonio you don't need to rub my hands. You only need to do one thing. Make people forget about the other receivers who were here before you. Climb that ladder and be as good as you can be. He is making that happen. JuJu is having the same opportunity." * * * Vote for JuJu Smith-Schuster and his teammates to go to the 2018 Pro Bowl. * * *