If the Pittsburgh Steelers fall to the Cleveland Browns today, it would seem that many fans will be hoping that it is the final game in a black and gold jersey for JuJu Smith-Schuster, an accomplished 24-year-old Pro Bowl wide receiver who has caught 308 passes for 3726 yards and 26 touchdowns in his first four seasons—those numbers ranking first, third, and third all-time in team history for a player’s first four years in Pittsburgh.
Why? Oh, mostly because of dancing, of course, just the usual reasons that people hate other people.
No, but seriously, the latest ‘tiff’ that Smith-Schuster has gotten himself into with regards for providing “bulletin board material” for the Steelers’ opponents involves him stating the obvious about their upcoming opponent.
Cleveland just made the postseason for the first time since 2002, and Smith-Schuster was asked in the middle of last week if he felt that the Browns team that they are about to face has a “different vibe, a more successful vibe” than the Browns teams he’s played in previous seasons. In fairness to him, the Browns did go 7-8-1 and 6-10 in their past two seasons prior to this year.
“Nah, I think they’re still the same Browns team I play every year”, he said, invoking a Tomlinism in saying, “I think they’re nameless, gray faces. Yes, they have a couple good players on their team, but at the end of the day, the Browns is the Browns, and that’s just one of the things that—AFC North football, they’re a good team—but I’m just happy that we’re playing them again this Sunday”.
It took a few days, but his comments finally did the rounds, and eventually got to Browns players. Myles Garret yesterday used it to fuel a hype video for the team, which he posted on Instagram. Needless to say, if the Steelers lose, it will be because Smith-Schuster said “the Browns is the Browns”.
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And if the Steelers win, then everything will be forgotten, because generally, we tend to remember the events that confirm our biases and reject the ones that don’t. Probably every game involves “bulletin board material” of some kind, but we only remember the bulletin board material when the team supplying the material loses the game. We don’t remember all the times they won.
I don’t think anybody is suggesting that Chase Young saying that he wanted to face Tom Brady is the reason that his Washington Football Team lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last night.
Should Smith-Schuster have said what he said? That can certainly be debated, but it wouldn’t exactly be the first time that a player has been less than respectful regarding one of his team’s chief rivals, and the reality is that the Browns have to prove that they can actually beat the Steelers, especially in Pittsburgh. Until then, the Browns will be the Browns, and today, Smith-Schuster can put his money where his mouth is, or have somebody else find something to do with that mouth of his. Like Vonn Bell did.