On Tuesday afternoon Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin met with the media to discuss last night’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals—and to look ahead to next weekend’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, who are 10-4 and currently the No. 6 seed in the AFC.
Naturally, he couldn’t get through the press conference without a reporter (Will Graves of the Associated Press) asking him about wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s pregame TikTok videos, and whether or not they are serving as added motivation for opposing teams.
Last week, Tomlin said he wasn’t aware of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s pregame dancing—or at least not aware that it was becoming an issue. But this week he had a different response.
JuJu Smith-Schuster’s ‘Antics’
“I am aware of it and I do plan to talk to JuJu,” said Tomlin, who went on to try to discount the notion that Smith-Schuster’s ‘antics’ are providing added motivation for opposing players.
“We’re professionals. I doubt any of those antics or things of that nature are legitimate motivating factors as you step into professional stadiums,” he said. “But it’s about respect, and so we’ll have a conversation.”
Still, Tomlin doesn’t want Smith-Schuster’s TikTok videos to be an excuse for the team’s woeful games of late.
“I understand it’s about the quality of play inside the white lines and so I’m not seeking comfort or looking for excuses based on our recent performances on things that occur in pregame or things of that nature that are social media-related,” he concluded.
Will JuJu Smith-Schuster Stop ‘Being Himself’?
But after what unfolded last night in Cincinnati, Tomlin has added ammunition going into a talk with Smith-Schuster. Not only does he have multiple examples of other teams publicly talking about Smith-Schuster being disrespectful—namely the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals—one of the players who called out JuJu (Vonn Bell) delivered a highlight-reel hit on the fourth-year wide receiver last night, one that caused a fumble and played a pivotal role in Cincinnati’s 27-17 victory.
In other words, there is increasingly tangible evidence that Smith-Schuster is putting a bull’s-eye on his own back, and also ‘writing checks he can’t cash’—or something to that effect.
It should be interesting to see how Smith-Schuster responds. After all, it was only a few days ago that he said: “I’m not going to stop being myself.”
Methinks he will have to. Otherwise, fans will point to his behavior as a contributing factor in Pittsburgh’s ongoing late-season slide, which looks destined to produce a one-and-done performance in the postseason and is spotlighting growing concerns about the team’s future at quarterback and on the offensive line. Never mind the fact that two of the five Steelers who got elected to the 2021 Pro Bowl don’t seem deserving of the honor.
Steelers Playoff Seeding Update
At the moment, the Steelers (11-3) are the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs, just ahead of the Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts, all of whom are 10-4.
The Steelers can clinch the AFC North with a win against the Colts on Sunday. The Steelers would also clinch the division if the Browns lose to the 1-13 New York Jets. Otherwise, the division title won’t be decided until the season-finale, when Pittsburgh visits Cleveland on January 3rd.
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