Juju Smith-Schuster has taken full advantage of a drama-less Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room this offseason.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had their fair share of drama and headaches over the past several years, with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell running the show. With the two of them out of the picture, it allows young players like Juju Smith-Schuster to gain relevance in the locker room.
Smith-Schuster was recently chosen by the NFL to be an ambassador at the 2019 NFL Academy Trials held in London, which is an initiative launched by the NFL this year to give student athletes abroad aged 16-18 a chance at finding pathways to employment, continuing education, and even an opportunity to play NCAA football in the US.
Being held at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Smith-Schuster has been one of several NFL players chosen to represent the league and coach these teenagers by use of intensive training. It’s another way the NFL is working to stay connected to their fanbase abroad, in addition to playing two games minimum in Tottenham every year.
Apparently, Smith-Schuster is just as popular over there as in the States:
"“I was surprised how many guys know me,” Juju Smith-Schuster said to ESPN. “In the states, people come up to me and show some love. But here, when I walk down the streets of the U.K. and they come up to me … It happened four, five, six times the first day here. They show so much love. It’s awesome.”"
Juju Smith-Schuster is very big on community efforts and giving back to those that need a little boost in their life. He has always intended to lead by example, and be a role model to kids and teenagers everywhere. His ability to interact with fans on social media, his YouTube channel that has almost 1 million subscribers, his love of video games have all helped him become one of the most relatable players in the NFL.
"“I want (the students) to see a guy who is super authentic, pretty much who gives back to the community and can help out a lot. To be out here with the kids and show them I care so much. They want to learn. I am able to show them I care about them and American football. … When they told me about this, I accepted right away. Giving back to the community, especially the young kids out here starting American football and teaching them at the NFL Academy and what (the game is) all about and being part of it, it’s amazing.”"
Juju has embodied what every NFL team wants out of their players, on-and-off the field. It only took him two years to be named to the Pro Bowl, in addition to being named the Pittsburgh Steelers’ MVP last season. To be a leader in the locker room, and a role model to the fans is just icing on the cake.
Isn’t it crazy to look back over the past year when drama was at an all-time high in Pittsburgh. With Le’Veon Bell sitting out last season, and Antonio Brown making it awkward for everybody the entire season, the Steelers seem to be at peace with their current situation.
It was just three months ago that Antonio Brown started taking jabs at Juju, a teammate that did nothing, but show love to Brown the past two seasons. The jab was apparently because Juju was named the team’s MVP last season, despite the fact he “fumbled the whole post season in the biggest game of the year,” according to a tweet by Brown.
Even in that situation, Smith-Schuster handled it properly, stayed professional, and proved to Brown that the entire Steelers’ team is ready to move on.
The Pittsburgh Steelers should be ecstatic that they have Juju Smith-Schuster to replace the diva that got traded to the Oakland Raiders. Even Nate Burleson thinks the Steelers will get a better player out Juju than Oakland will out of Brown:
"“I think JuJu‘s going to be incredible. I feel like JuJu’s going to have a better season than Antonio. I’m not saying that right now that JuJu is a better wideout because he still has some growth to do, but he definitely has a better quarterback. And for me, if JuJu is really close to the talent and skill level of AB as a young wide receiver, what puts him over the top would be Big Ben who’s a Hall of Famer.”"
Juju will have a ton of success with the Pittsburgh Steelers for years to come. He’s exactly the player and teammate that this city thrives on, and it will really begin to show without Brown in the way.
As Juju put it, “God opened up the door for me to take another opportunity to be the number one guy. I’m super happy and I’m super proud.”
Keep being you, Juju. We love it.
We would love to hear your thoughts on Juju Smith-Schuster’s growth he has shown in the past two years with the NFL. Feel free to leave your comments below!