If JuJu Smith-Schuster remains with the Pittsburgh Steelers, then so, too, will his TikTok account. That doesn’t mean, however, that somebody, or multiple somebodies might not have a bit of a talk with him, perhaps with some recommendations about how to conduct his business while not stepping on anybody’s toes.
The four-year veteran drew criticism last year for a series of videos that he posted over the course of the season that featured him dancing before games on the center-field logos of the stadiums in which he was about to play.
While this went under the radar for much of the year, it bubbled up a bit when they played in Dallas, and then received the national spotlight following a game against the Buffalo Bills in which some players’ dissatisfaction was publicized.
It ballooned from there, to the point where teammates and coaches were asked to address it. Eventually, Smith-Schuster ‘announced’ that he would stop doing it in order for it to cease being a distraction for his team.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, team president Art Rooney II was asked about Smith-Schuster’s TikTok videos. “We understand it’s 2020, 2021. Social media is a factor out there that our players pay attention to, and that’s not going to change”, he told Bob Pompeani on KDKA.
“Obviously, there are a few things that probably JuJu could handle better”, he added, “but as far as any of that impacting our win-loss record, I don’t think it had anything to do with it”.
One gets the sense that the team doesn’t exactly buy into the idea that the videos in any meaningful way inspired their opponents to play better in ways that they otherwise wouldn’t, but nevertheless, would surely still prefer that he not do it all the same.
The Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin, however, are not interested in policing the social lives of their players, preferring to treat them as adults who are capable of making their own decisions about how to conduct themselves in the world.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be a conversation along the way when there is a misstep that becomes a distraction for the team, as happens from time to time. Such is life, after all, and we are dealing with life here, largely the lives of relatively young adults in their early 20s to early 30s.
Now, as to whether or not Smith-Schuster and his TikTok videos will even be in Pittsburgh, that’s another conversation. Presumably, they would like to try to keep him, but it will be difficult to swing financially given the impending salary cap situation.