For the life of me, I can’t imagine why people get so worked up over something as inane as a team MVP award, something that literally means close to nothing for all intents and purpose. It holds no meaningful prestige, affords the player no additional opportunities, and is merely a reflection of a locker room vote, and nothing more.
Yet a number of beat writers—and even members of the local media—seemingly became deeply upset because quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has not won the award since 2009, was passed over in favor of second-year wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is putting up top-five numbers in franchise history, short of only prior stat lines from Antonio Brown.
I’ve already explained my position on this matter and why I was completely fine with Smith-Schuster as the selection, and also that it could have gone another way and been equally valid. But I thought I’d let the receiver’s teammates explain what makes him so valuable instead.
“He has the respect of all of the guys in this locker room for the way he works and approaches practice and it obviously carries over to games”, draft classmate T.J. Watt told the team’s website. “It shows in how he works, added one of his mentors on the team, Darrius Heyward-Bey.
“He worked hard in the offseason. He knew there were going to be a lot of eyes on him this season and he rose to the occasion. He works hard. I knew from Day 1 this kid was going to be special. We are just at the beginning. The sky is going to be the limit”.
Heyward-Bey lavished the praise on the 22-year-old, saying that “he cares about his craft” and “wants to be the best”. The veteran also praised his coachability. “He can humble himself to learn from anybody. He just wants to get better”. Drawing comparisons to Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, whom he described as “two guys who know how to play football”, he said, Smith-Schuster is one of them, the guys who know how to play the game.
Another one of his draft classmates, James Conner, called him “an all-around great guy, teammate, and player”, calling him “very selfless. Always puts other people first. His play on the field is very reliable. He is a guy we can count on. There are a lot of guys on the team we can count on. It’s just his year. He has been improving every year he has been here. He deserves it”.
Outside of the touchdown production, nobody has been coming up big more consistently this season than Smith-Schuster, and in ways that are not always clearly reflected in the stat lines. He has caught 25 passes on third and fourth down this season for 219 yards and two touchdowns, including 20 successful conversions.