I’m not saying JuJu Smith-Schuster is the next Hines Ward. But I bet Ward will be proud of how Smith-Schuster plays on the field.
Speaking with Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley, the Steelers’ second round pick said he was excited to show off his physicality.
“I like just going in there and hitting people, digging them out,” he told Varley. “That’s what you do at USC, you block because that’s what you have to do. Not everyone is physical or likes to block, but that’s one thing I have passion about.”
That’s certainly a rare attitude for the position in today’s NFL. Most have a diva persona, something the Steelers obviously had to deal with through Antonio Brown last year. For as big of a star he is, and he definitely is, he can be a headache, too. It doesn’t sound like Smith-Schuster poses any threat of acting the same way based on what he’s said since being drafted and in the above quote.
Most receivers are focused on yards and touchdowns. To hear Smith-Schuster talking about digging out a safety or being passionate about blocking is refreshing. It’s certainly something we’ve seen Brown be pretty lax about. And it’s a personality that is reminiscent of Ward, who liked taking off Ed Reed’s head as much as he did catching a touchdown.
It’s another reason to think Smith-Schuster can make a home in the slot. He has the physicality and toughness to play inside. To crack the safety or occasionally block the backside linebacker. To make the catch in traffic over the middle on third down. And seemingly, to play with an infectious passion in good times and bad.
Smith-Schuster posted a photo of how he feels like he’s living the dream, going from asking AB for advice on Instagram to getting to work out with him, one-on-one.
And recently, he said fellow USC alum Troy Polamalu reached out to the rookie. From ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
“Anything you need, I’m out in Pittsburgh, let me now,” he said Polmalu told him. “He’s always there to help.”
It doesn’t feel like he needed any extra motivation to succeed in the NFL, and to be fair, excitement does not guarantee success, but having the backing and help from Antonio Brown and Troy Polamalu is a strong way to kick off a career.