On Tuesday Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster vowed that he would not stop “being [him]self”—and would continue the practice of doing a self-promotional dance at midfield for the benefit of his 2.6 million TikTok followers, which has become part of his pregame routine.
That means that on Monday evening, Smith-Schuster, 24, is going to be dancing on the Cincinnati Bengals logo at Paul Brown Stadium, the prospect of which has already attracted the attention of Bengals players like fifth-year safety Vonn Bell.
“It’s kind of disrespectful at the end of the day,” said Bell during his media session on Wednesday. “But they’re on top right now so you can’t really say nothing right now. We just gotta go out there, between the lines, go out there and hit him and let him know where he stands.”
Presumably, Bell is referring to hitting Smith-Schuster during the course of the game, but at this point it wouldn’t be a surprise if the receiver’s logo dancing sparked a pregame incident. At 2-10-1, the Bengals have relatively little to lose if an altercation ensued.
JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Hit on Vontaze Burfict
Smith-Schuster, now in his fourth season in the NFL, is already a villain to Bengals players and their fans, thanks to his illegal crackback block of former Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict in a December 2017 game between the two teams. Smith-Schuster was subsequently suspended for one game (without pay) for the hit, in part because of his behavior after the play was over.
As the league noted in its letter to Smith-Schuster advising him of the suspension: “You lined up a defender and delivered a violent and unnecessary blindside shot to his head and neck area. You then ‘celebrated’ the play by standing over him and taunting him.”
It’s just one play in an oftentimes testy rivalry that has featured dangerous—and oftentimes penalized hits—on players from both sides. In fact, it was a hit by former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward—against Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers, in a game at Cincinnati in 2008—that prompted the NFL to institute a rule against the so-called crackback block.
Should JuJu Smith-Schuster Stop the Pregame Dance Routines?
But the moment, the Steelers are 11-2 and many Pittsburgh fans are of the mind that Smith-Schuster should put team over self-promotion and set aside the logo dancing for the time being, a practice that dates back to the game at Dallas last month, if not earlier.
During and after that game, Cowboys players expressed their distaste for Smith-Schuster’s actions, even as they were applauded by former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens, who signaled his approval of Smith-Schuster’s behavior, having celebrated two touchdowns on the Cowboys star two decades ago.
More notably, this past weekend, Buffalo Bills players related how Smith-Schuster’s dancing gave them “extra fire” when going against the Steelers, with the Bills winning 26-15.
Earlier this week, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin insisted that he hadn’t heard about Smith-Schuster dancing on the Buffalo Bills logo, and opined that it probably had “very little relevance in terms of how the game was played.”
But Tomlin won’t be able to plead ignorance going forward, as all eyes will be on midfield during pregame warmups on Monday evening, not to mention the television cameras of ESPN’s nationally televised broadcast.
Kickoff is at 8:15 p.m. EST on Monday.
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