Like it or not—and most do—team pride is a huge part of the game, even in the era of free agency. There are still a lot of players who strongly identify with their organization and the culture that they build, and this is especially true for flagship franchises such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys.
For Dallas, the Cowboys star is the closest thing that you get to sacred in the game, and when Terrell Owens many years ago ran up to midfield after scoring and celebrated on it, that caused quite a kerfuffle, to say the least.
JuJu Smith-Schuster wanted to see what would happen after he scored on an impressive 31-yard touchdown today in Dallas, but he was impeded—by both sides. Cowboys spoke after the game saying that they knew that it was coming, and that it would not be happening.
As Smith-Schuster began running toward midfield with the ball, Randy Gregory slapped the ball out of his hand, while Antwaun Woods trailed him, keeping himself between the receiver and the star as though he were an offensive tackle protecting a quarterback.
JuJu thought he wanted the celebration smoke, but changed up ASAP when he saw big @AntwaunWoods_ daring him.
George Teague and Byron Jones would be proud. pic.twitter.com/DlNrhD0kFk
— Patrik [No C] Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) November 9, 2020
“Absolutely” they were making sure that JuJu wouldn’t pull a T.O., Woods said after the game. “I saw a video before the game that had him on the star. I knew that was something he might do. I was going to make sure he didn’t get there. We have zero tolerance for that.”
DT Antwaun Woods said protecting the star and making sure JuJu didn’t go out there:
“Absolutely. I saw a video before the game that had him on the star. I knew that was something he might do. I was going to make sure he didn’t get there. We have zero tolerance for that.” https://t.co/9WW9MklyZl
— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) November 9, 2020
And Smith-Schuster, for his part, said that that is exactly what he was going to do—and that he hopes to do in the future some day. He would have looked to do it anyway, but said that running back James Conner came up to him and let him know they had bigger things to worry about.
“That first celebration, I was going to do the T.O. star celebration. 94 like, raked the ball out of my hands, probably would’ve stopped me”, he told reporters after the game, “and James Conner came over and pulled me over, like, ‘it’s a close game’. You just never know what’ll happen, and I didn’t want to start anything. But if it was a far, far blowout game, I definitely would love to do that one day”.
Regardless of how he wanted to celebrate, the fourth-year wide receiver still had a big game, catching seven passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. He had four catches for 80 yards on that drive alone, which brought the Steelers back in the game and on a path toward victory.
Truth be told, Steelers players and fans should be able to relate. Just think of all the times an opponent stepped on the Terrible Towel. While I personally think it’s all a bit silly—and certainly it’s meant to be, to a certain degree—this is a fundamental part of team sports. That’s why they give them names in the first place, to create an identity, and if it has no value, then what’s the point?
— Steelers Depot 🦃 (@Steelersdepot) November 9, 2020