JuJu Smith-Schuster was in the streets of Pittsburgh armed with pillows, looking for a fight. Antonio Brown was looking for one ‘great samaritan’ with a lawnmower willing to cut the significantly overgrown grass at his local estate.
It’s fair to say that the two former teammates have taken divergent paths recently, largely forced upon the pair by the latter. Smith-Schuster, in fact, continued to support Brown and defend him up to the point that Brown decided to publicly call him fake and try to make him look bad, failing spectacularly in the process.
The third-year veteran has pretty consistently taken the high road over the course of his young career, however—which Brown would attribute to having not been paid yet—so it was no surprise when he reflected on his prior relationship with the former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver in a mature manner.
Smith-Schuster did acknowledge that he picked up some positive work habits from Brown. “I think everyone picked it up”, he offered. “Not just receivers but everyone on the team. They see how AB worked. He came out here every day and would just run hard, 100 percent”.
“But I think for myself”, he went on, “I’m just focused on the guys that we have here and how we can get better”.
Though he’s the youngest wide receiver in the room among the significant names—including rookie third-round pick Diontae Johnson—Smith-Schuster is the most accomplished of the group, even more so than sixth-year veteran Donte Moncrief, who was signed via free agency.
But Brown’s production paled in comparison almost everybody else’s production in the entire league, and Smith-Schuster’s was no exception. Even last season, he scored twice as many touchdowns as the 22-year-old did.
Brown was something of a mentor, role model, and friend, so to see the way things developed this offseason, Smith-Schuster, admitted, was hard. But “at the end of the day, that’s his opinion. For myself, I kind of stand from afar. I’m not worried about what he has going on in his team”, he said.
“I wish him nothing but the best. He’s a great player. He dominates on the field. As for myself, I’m worrying about the guys that we have here, my teammates, and how I can be great on the field and off the field”.
In terms of likability, the Steelers certainly still retain the better of the two options. Can the former second-round pick live up to Brown’s on-field standards, and also become the leader that he frankly never was?