Well, the Killer Bs era was fun, but it certainly seems as though it’s coming to an end. By the start of the 2019 season, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may be the only one remaining from their Pro Bowl triplets at the skill positions.
Running back Le’Veon Bell basically already removed himself from the equation last year when he chose to sit out the season rather than play under the franchise tag for a second consecutive season. Now Antonio Brown is possibly angling to be traded, or at least doing an awful job of showing that he wants to stay.
Within that vacuum, JuJu Smith-Schuster has arisen, the gregarious 22-year-old who has already made the Pro Bowl in his second season, something that not even Brown achieved as an offensive player (he made the Pro Bowl in year two as a return man).
It didn’t take the fans long to embrace him. He has always had a welcoming personality, but he started to prove himself on the field pretty early on, while he was still just 20 years old. That fact was not lost on Smtih-Schuster by any means, who talked about it with the Pro Football Talk guys down in Atlanta for the Super Bowl.
“The connection’s amazing, the fan base, the Steeler Nation fans are unbelievable supporters whether we’re up or down”, he said. “It all started off with the bike, then getting the license, then my dog, but the biggest one of all was the Burfict hit. And that right there grabbed Steelers Nation. They pretty much wrapped me around their arms, and they supported me since day one”.
It’s no surprise that it was the illegal hit on Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who has about as little sympathy as anybody from Pittsburgh, was what really put Smith-Schuster over for the fans. He ended up getting fined and suspended for that hit, but it’s what fans wanted to see—have been waiting to see.
“Yes it was” worth the money, he said, about that hit. The hit, as mentioned, was an illegal one under the current rules, and resulted in Burfict suffering a concussion that ended his season in 2017. After dealing with more concussions in 2018, there are questions over whether or not he may be forced to retire.
While I do think there is some issue with the tone being expressed in light of the after-effects of that hit, I do understand the sentiment, and the fact that Burfict has done little to deserve any compassion for what takes place on a football field.
There’s nothing that Steelers fans like more on offense than a blocking wide receiver aside from a big running back rushing for a two-yard touchdown. The team even showed Smith-Schuster’s block in the ‘Renegade’ highlight reel, I believe. It fast-tracked his connection with the fans for sure, a relationship that continues to grow.