As much as I would like to try to deny it, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ players in recent years do seem to have a way of finding controversy, even very minor and innocuous things that simply didn’t need to happen, and it does seem to happen at a rate in excess of what you see on other teams.
The dumbest controversy in sports in 2020 was probably the Steelers’ TikTok saga with JuJu Smith-Schuster and rookie Chase Claypool, a pair of talented young wide receivers, who combined for 20 touchdowns in 2020—23 if you count the postseason.
You all know the background behind this by now, so I won’t belabor it, but both players have been open about the fact that they enjoy engaging on social media and ‘building their brand’. Claypool recently showed up on the 4th and Forever Podcast with Mark Sanchez, and the social media ‘controversy’ is one of the topics they discussed, particularly the backlash that they got from fans, both for specific things and for their general use.
“If anything, I would probably make more TikToks, and probably start earlier”, he said when he was asked if he would do anything different. “When we were 11-0, everyone on TikTok loves it, everyone on Twitter loves it. Everyone just loves the TikToks and they love seeing the behind-the-scenes stuff. And that’s really why we do it, is for the people who do love seeing those videos”.
“As soon as you start losing, everyone’s gonna try to find an excuse to why you’re losing. But a 30-second TikTok video is not the reason why we’re losing games”, he added.
He also talked about the backlash that he and other players who are active on social media get from fans who are, for example, why they’re online rather than practicing or reading their playbook, and things of that nature.
“I don’t think they understand how simple it is to make a quick video. I make videos that take me like, two minutes, and people are like, ‘yo, shouldn’t you be getting ready for the game?’”, he said, which is certainly also a reference to Smith-Schuster’s pre-game videos.
“It’s like they think we’re getting ready for the game 24 hours out of the day, which is just, isn’t true. We have a lot of spare time on our hands”, he added. “I think people just want us to be football players, and that’s not what the generation is today. I don’t just want to be a football player”.
To be quite honest, a lot of people are guilty of this ‘why aren’t you just a football player’ mindset, and are quick to jump on anything a player says, even during interviews when they’re asked questions. Why are you opening your mouth when you should be working to get better? Don’t tell me you haven’t seen those sorts of comments, even on this very website.