Truth be told, I don’t know how slanted my perspective is based upon the potential biases that might exist within our community here, but my perception is that JuJu Smith-Schuster has gone from one of the most liked to one of the most disliked members of the Pittsburgh Steelers over the course of the past 18 months, which is a rare turnaround.
The good news for those who are tired of him is the fact that he is an unrestricted free agent, and there is a more than fair chance that he ends up leaving. Especially if the report that the salary cap might come in as low as $180 million is true, swinging a contract for him would prove to be painful.
Should he leave, though, he will do so having had one of the most productive first four seasons of any Steelers wide receiver in history, even if many will remember him most for the things that he did on social media—and for citing people like Terrell Owens as an inspiration.
Owens is such a divisive figure that he pretty much had his Hall of Fame induction delayed a year or two simply because voters could not accept the sorts of things that he did that came outside of the game—which were generally innocuous and harmless, much like Smith-Schuster.
The former NFL great was on the Pat McAfee Show recently and discussed the topic of branding and of Smith-Schuster. “Trust me, I would be like some of these guys with millions and millions of followers. Obviously that helps with their branding”, he said about the prevalence of social media in today’s game.
With regards to Smith-Schuster’s center-field dancing, Owens admitted, “If you’re going to do something like, you have to do something to support what you’re doing. They went on a losing skid. It only compounds when you’re not being productive, and for him, that’s what happened”.
“If they were winning, no one would be saying anything, they wouldn’t be criticizing”, he added. “The love would’ve quadrupled. If you think about the fans that really loved him when they were losing, just think about if they were winning”.
When the Steelers played the Dallas Cowboys earlier this season, Smith-Schuster specifically said after the game when asked during an interview that he intended to mimick Owens’ mid-game center field celebration on the Dallas star, which was one of his more controversial moments of his career.
The young wide receiver also added that while he was discouraged from doing it then, that he would still like to do it someday whenever he plays there again and provided that the result of the game is well in hand.
“He was doing that & they went on a losing skid. It only compounds when you’re not being productive & for him that’s what happened. If they were winning no one would be saying anything”@terrellowens on @TeamJuJu facing criticism #PatMcAfeeShowLIVE pic.twitter.com/ffC8iDeRwf
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) January 19, 2021