Talk to anyone who played for Mike Tomlin and you’ll hear one common theme: He’s as real as it gets. JuJu Smith-Schuster told a story that perfectly illustrates that in his discussion with Michael Irvin on Irvin’s podcast.
Smith-Schuster said one day, he showed up late for a training camp practice. And Mike Tomlin made it clear that wasn’t something he should do again.
“So one day I was late behind AB,” Smith-Schuster told the show. “[Tomlin] walked up to me and he goes, ‘I’m gonna fine you so hard, I’m gonna make sure your kids don’t go to college.'”
That automatically vaults itself into a Top 5 Mike Tomlin story. Of which there are plenty.
For Smith-Schuster, it was message received.
“Since then, I’m out there 10 minutes early on the JUGs machine trying to get right.”
In our last trip out to St. Vincent, few guys worked as hard as Smith-Schuster did after practice. He stayed out there longer and caught more passes on the JUGS machine than even Antonio Brown. By my count, after one practice, Smith-Schuster caught 370 passes before his day was done.
Wow. JuJu Smith-Schuster just caught 370 balls on the JUGs machine after practice (yes, I counted). Left, right, over shoulder, at his feet, between his legs, & one-handed. Top flight talent and work ethic to be a star receiver for a long time. #Steelers
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) August 7, 2019
And if you’re wondering, according to Smith-Schuster, Brown wasn’t fined for being late. His tardiness was a running theme. Which yes, being serious about the situation for a moment, is an obvious double-standard and fuels the criticism of how Tomlin handled Brown. Letting him cut too many corners that eventually ended in his blowup and exit from Pittsburgh. And for what it’s worth, we don’t actually know if Smith-Schuster was even fined, or if Tomlin’s threat was enough to get the point across.
That’s a much heavier discussion for this light-hearted story. Most players understand stars do get treated differently, right or wrong. And it follows Tomlin’s mantra of treating all players fairly but not treating everyone equally. Brown could get away with those things because…he was AB — an elite talent who took over games.
Though that hypocrisy may ruffle the feathers of some Steeler fans, it obviously hasn’t deterred someone like JuJu Smith-Schuster from coming back to Pittsburgh. He could’ve played for Andy Reid or Jim Harbaugh this offseason, two coaches held in high regard in league circles. But he came back to play for Tomlin, Ben Roethlisberger, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.