Last month, the NFL UK launched the first-ever NFL Academy. Beginning in September of this year, this program will offer student-athletes ages 16-18 the chance to train under professional coaches while also taking on full-time education duties. The NFL Academy will also provide students with pathways to employment, higher education, and even the chance to play college football in the United States.
Superstars around the NFL are supporting the initiative, including the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Odell Beckham Jr., Jerry Rice, and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
“Giving back to the community, especially the young kids out here, and starting american football/teaching them the NFL Academy and what it’s all about and to be a part of it is amazing,” Smith-Schuster said on a conference call from London.
The NFL started playing regular-season football games in England at the start of the 2007 season. Pittsburgh has only played once in the NFL’s international series, a 2013 battle with the Minnesota Vikings in London. Smith-Schuster, who was just entering his senior year of high school during that time, now finds himself across the pond for the first time.
When asked if he’s seen Big Ben, Smith-Schuster responded “It’s my first trip here to the UK, and I saw Big Ben, but it’s under construction. I was gonna take a picture of it and send it to Ben (Roethlisberger)”.
As far as English food goes, Smith-Schuster didn’t hold back: “Man, definitely the fish and chips are not good (laughs). I think for myself, the steak was really good. The breakfast, the English breakfast? Fire. So good.”
As Smith-Schuster starts to gear up for the season, the AFC North welcomes the unworldly talents of fellow NFL UK ambassador Odell Beckham to the Cleveland Browns. Smith-Schuster is ready for the challenge of facing him and the rest of Cleveland twice a season.
“I haven’t really seen him out here, but he’s awesome,” he said. “Him being with the Browns will be super cool. We’ll go back and forth.”
The sport of American football has seen continued growth since the league first began play overseas, and Smith-Schuster believes the sport has a chance to become prevalent in England.
“It’s so cool to see the interest and the eagerness in their eyes,” he said. “How they’re ready and how they want to learn. Being out here and mentoring the young dudes who don’t know football has been awesome. They get the technique down, they execute it. They’re very, very good listeners, and they dominate at what they do. It’s pretty cool to see them out here doing a lot of work.”
It probably helps to have a player of the caliber of Smith-Schuster teaching the young players, especially for those in England. He is rapidly seeing himself increase in popularity, and he wants everybody outside of the states to know exactly the type of person he is:
“I’m a guy who’s super authentic. Pretty much a guy who gives back to the community, who can help out a lot. Whatever he can do to give back, that’s what he (JuJu) is all about. I care so much that they (the kids) want to learn. I was surprised how many guys knew me. It’s pretty interesting. Here I walk around the streets and they’ll come up to me. It happened like four, five, six times my first day here. They show so much love, it’s awesome.”
JuJu has now taken over London. Is a place like Mexico next?
“I’ve been offered to go to Mexico, I couldn’t go this year because of my schedule, but definitely that’s a place I would love to go. … That’d be super cool.”
Terrell Edmunds Explains New Nickname
Terrell Edmunds informs the media, including Mike Asti and Alan Saunders of Steelers Now, about his new nickname. Call him “Old Fashioned” from now on. He also expresses how feels about the current state of the Steelers, and that’s obviously includes being happy about the team’s record but also understanding the need to improve.
Steelers Week 10 Game vs. Bengals Flexed to 4:25 p.m. National Broadcast
The Steelers game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10 has been flexed into a national television broadcast slot.
The Steelers and Bengals will now kick off at Heinz Field on Sunday, Nov. 15 at 4:25 p.m. The game had originally been scheduled to kick at 1 p.m. It will be broadcast nationally on FOX. All of that weekend’s early games will be broadcast on FOX, as CBS has coverage of The Masters, which was rescheduled from this summer.
The game will be Pittsburgh’s first matchup against 2020 NFL Draft No. 1 pick, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
The Steelers are also playing a 4:25 p.m., nationally broadcast game in Week 9 against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. That game will be televised by CBS.
That will be the second time this season the Steelers will be placed in a nation-wide television slot. The team opened the season playing on ESPN’s Monday Night Football against the New York Giants.
The Steelers’ Week 7 game against the Tennessee Titans was protected by CBS in a 1 p.m. time slot, but was broadcast nearly nationwide, with CBS only showing two other 1 p.m. games.
The Steelers will play on national television at least three more times this season: against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday, Nov. 26, on Sunday Night Football against the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 13 and at the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday, Dec. 21.
What Does Being NFL’s Last Unbeaten Team Portend for Steelers?
The Steelers are the last remaining undefeated team in the NFL after beating the formerly unbeaten Tennessee Titans on Sunday while the Seattle Seahawks lost on Sunday night, leaving the Steelers as the only 6-0 team in the nation.
What does that mean for them in the long term? Not as much as you might think.
In the last 20 years, one of the last undefeated teams didn’t even make the playoffs three times: 2002 4-0 San Diego Chargers, 2014 3-0 Philadelphia Eagles and the 2016 5-0 Minnesota Vikings. Ten other times, one of the last undefeated teams (some years, there are more than one), lost in the first or second round of the NFL playoffs.
Just once since 2000 has the last undefeated team won the Super Bowl, in 2006 when the Indianapolis Colts started 9-0 on the way to winning Super Bowl XLI.
In the first three decades of the league’s modern era, that was significantly different. The last undefeated team won six Super Bowls in the 1990s, two in the 1980s and three in the 1970s, including the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who finished a perfect 17-0, the only team in NFL history to do so.
More recently, being the last undefeated team has resulted in a bunch of Super Bowl losses, including the last time the Steelers were the league’s last unbeaten team.
The 2001 St. Louis Rams, 2002 Oakland Raiders, 2004 Eagles, 2007 New England Patriots, 2009 Colts, 2010 Steelers, 2015 Carolina Panthers, 2018 Los Angeles Rams and the 2019 San Francisco 49ers all made it to the championship game after being the last undefeated team before losing in the end.