One of the great debates that has re-emerged over the course of the 2020 season is whether or not ‘bulletin board material’ is a thing that can actually have a tangible and significant impact on a game, e.g. that a team that was irked by something said or done by an opponent would perform better in that game than they otherwise would have, thus increasing their chances of winning the game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster has been the focal point of this conversation for multiple incidents, most notably his TikTok videos in which he is seen dancing on the center-field logos of stadiums before games, including those of his opponents.
Even after he received criticism for doing it, with players from opposing teams noting their feeling disrespected by it, he did continue to do it until it became too much of a circus. But just as he stopped, he flubbed again last week, inciting the Cleveland Browns with a comment that was interpreted as saying that they are an organization that has made no progress and are still the losers they have been for decades.
While numerous Browns players gravitated toward his “Browns is the Browns” remark, nobody with the team has actually indicated that they carried that over into their play and performed better than they would have otherwise. Head coach Kevin Stefanski also rejected the notion that that played a role in the victory.
“I think the guys understand the competitive nature of all of these players and these teams”, he said. “I think they are plenty motivated to play hard for their teammates and to play hard for the fans. I do not know that we need a ton of additional stuff to get excited and get ready for a game”.
For his own part, he also said that the pre-game chatter had no influence on his appreciation for how the game turned out. “No, it does not” make the victory more significant, he said. “I have a ton of respect for that organization. I have a ton of respect for (Steelers Head) Coach (Mike) Tomlin and his entire staff. It is just good to get a win versus a really good opponent any way you can get it”.
Myles Garrett, one of the team’s captains for the finale and for the postseason, said that anybody on any team would have found Smith-Schuster’s comments disrespectful, adding that they “did not appreciate it” and that “we made that known tonight with our performance”. He added that they have to continue the momentum as the Browns look to advance to a conference finals for the first time since 1989.