Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster spent a lot of his time during his first two seasons in the NFL admiring former teammate Antonio Brown and what he was capable of doing on the football field, doing what he could to pick up his work and practice habits. Perhaps he was starting to pick up some other habits as well that he has thought better of now.
And he let the people know yesterday who would be affected by it the most: the media.
Following in the footsteps of James Harrison, Brown adopted a one-day-a-week policy when it comes to dealing with the media during the season. Smith-Schuster slowly seemed to gravitate toward that as well, even though he was always amicable with the press and you certainly never heard any meaningful complaints.
Still, he’s looking to do better and to set a better example this year. “When you guys see Ben tomorrow, tell him I came out here and did an interview”, he joked. Ben Roethlisberger, the franchise quarterback, also has a one-day-a-week policy, with Wednesday becoming known as Bensday as a result.
“He said I was trending to that one-day interview guy. I’m definitely not doing that”, Smith-Schuster said. “You guys can talk to me any time of the day. I promise you I’m not going to be an asshole”.
Now I don’t know if that was deliberately intended to be a shot and reference to Brown—I have seen accounts from reporters who were there who suggested that it didn’t come across that way—but nevertheless, it’s easy enough to draw the contrasts for yourself.
Especially over the course of his final season in Pittsburgh, Brown spent a lot less of his time smiling with the media than he used to, and gave more terse answers. When he wasn’t doing that, or rambling semi-coherently, he was offering little more than platitudes that he has since indicated were unquestionably insincere.
Following in Brown’s footsteps off the field for Smith-Schuster is both a positive and a negative, because, for one thing, it’s hard to look bad in contrast given the way that things ended. Yet on the other hand, the local media’s experiences with Brown—and even his later social media comments regarding sincerity—are going to leave questions in the minds of some about how much of what he’s saying he really means.
Overall, he does come off as a young man who is simply trying to get the most of his opportunities and experiences that life is offering him right now, and is happy to do it. He has generally been positive with the media and has given seemingly thoughtful and mature answers. I’m not expecting that to change, but I don’t think many people predicted Brown early on either.