It was little more than two weeks ago that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster announced he would stop dancing on the logos of opposing teams during pregame warmups, saying, “I don’t want to be a distraction.”
On Thursday, the fourth-year receiver showed that he doesn’t need to do any dancing to provide the opposition with “bulletin board material.”
While speaking with the media, he was asked if this year’s Browns team has a “different vibe”—“a more successful vibe.”
Here’s his response, courtesy of Tom Withers of the Associated Press: “Nah, I think they are still the same Browns team I play every year. I think they are nameless gray faces. Yes, they have a couple good players on their team but at the end of the day, the Browns is the Browns.”
That’s not all. Smith-Schuster went on to say:
“That’s just one of the things about AFC North football. They are a good team but I’m just happy we are playing them again this Sunday.”
What the Cleveland Browns Heard
Now, if you’re a member of the Cleveland Browns—or a Browns fan—all you heard is Smith-Schuster saying that these are the “same old Browns”—the same Browns that went almost two decades between playoff appearances and went 0-16 in 2017.
Moreover, he also made it sound like he’s glad the Browns are this weekend’s opponent, as opposed to any of the other AFC playoff teams.
Predictably, Browns players quickly took to social media to react to Smith-Schuster’s statements, most notably linebacker Mack Wilson, who posted this:
— Mack Wilson (@5mackwilson1) January 8, 2021
What Pittsburgh Steelers Fans Heard
At the same time, Steelers fans will take care to point out that Smith-Schuster said the Browns are “a good team” and have “a couple good players,” even if it came across as a half-hearted endorsement of their talent.
Steelers fans might also see the “glad we’re playing them again” comment as something akin to: we’re glad to have an opportunity to go to the postseason—and glad to get back in the AFC North kitchen, if you will.
Complicating matters further, Smith-Schuster also worked in a Tomlinism, one that will not be appreciated by the uninitiated.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin sometimes talks about opponents as “nameless gray faces,” an effort to communicate to his players that their success will be dictated by what they do and their execution of the game plan, as opposed to anything the opponent does.
So Smith-Schuster also seems to be saying that the Browns are just like any other opponent—and he’s treating them as such.
Nevertheless, these comments are going to attract a lot of attention, in part because of how Steelers opponents reacted to Smith-Schuster’s logo dancing. That includes Cincinnati Bengals safety Vonn Bell, who said that all the Bengals could do is to go out and hit him, which is exactly what Bell did.
Another ‘Talk’ with Mike Tomlin Coming?
Prior to stopping with the logo dancing, Smith-Schuster defiantly said he would not “stop being myself.” Then Tomlin had a talk with him. After these comments, it would be surprise if Tomlin wants to have another talk.
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