It has certainly been an interesting week for Pittsburgh Steelers second-year wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. He played a great game against the New Orleans Saints up until the last play, posting 11 receptions for 115 yards, but it was fighting for that last yard on which he fumbled at the end of the game, sealing the team’s loss.
Just a few days later after experiencing the lowest moment of his professional career, his teammates voted him their Most Valuable Player, receiving the award over the likes of Antonio Brown—who has won it four times already—and Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback who naturally is taken for granted in such voting.
The timing of these two events wasn’t lost in Smith-Schuster, who has tried his best not to shy away from his costly mistake. He answered questions in his uniform after the game and posted on social media addressing the issue. He elaborated more on Thursday while accepting his honor.
“I’m not the type of person to go hide. Obviously I don’t hide on social media”, he said. “What I put out was I took full responsibility for protecting the ball. That’s something that we work on every day, day in and day out, and it’s just tough that they got the best of me”.
Obviously one play is not going to define his season, or at least it shouldn’t for any fair observer. That was just one of 106 receptions on the season, which has produced 1389 yards of ball, along with six touchdowns.
“After that play, obviously I felt terrible, but you live and learn”, he said. “Everybody makes mistakes, and you’ve just got to keep it moving on”. The fact that he had the support of his teammates, solidified in the voting, surely made it that much easier to put it behind him.
“It means a lot. You’re talking about guys that have been in the league for 10 years-plus”, he said of the peer-chosen distinction. “For them to have my back and to have their respect, it’s awesome. You know, I’m only 22 years old. This is only my second year in the league. So to get that from them shows a lot. I’m proud that they voted for me, and I would do anything for those guys”.
Smith-Schuster has hardly had a misstep since day one coming into Pittsburgh, and it’s easy to see why he became an instant fan favorite. Backing it all up on the field certainly doesn’t hurt, and he has done that and more through his first 29 games.