It hasn’t been a great week to be a Pittsburgh Steelers pass-catcher.
However, the team received some needed good publicity when the NFL announced second-year Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was added to the Pro Bowl roster on Monday. Smith-Schuster will be replacing teammate Antonio Brown, who will officially miss the game due to what was officially called an injury, although Brown may just want to skip the game due to recent negative media attention.
Yet this is JuJu’s big moment, and the young USC product couldn’t appear to be more elated to take part in the league’s annual All-Star game.
What a blessing! To think how far I’ve come from where I started… Dreamed about playing in this game, and it’s a huge honor to be recognized in this way, thank you!! It’s littttyyy!!! 🔥💫 pic.twitter.com/lDmeMOZ8Bh
— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) January 7, 2019
Smith-Schuster’s 2018 campaign included 111 receptions for 1,426 yards and 7 touchdowns total. After an impressive rookie season, many wondered how Smith-Schuster would be able to build off his initial success. His answer? Finishing top five in the AFC in both receptions and receiving yards.
2018 also saw JuJu take on more responsibility in the offense. With Brown constantly double-teamed, Smith-Schuster was asked to make big plays when it counted, and he certainly rose to the occasion more times than not.
“He is a great player. He does everything well. He’s got the ability to play outside, inside. He is quick, he is fast, and he’s strong with the ball in his hands,” said New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick ahead of facing Smith-Schuster last season. “Long passes are a problem. Catch and run passes are a problem. He does a great job of going up and getting the ball, taking it away from defenders. He is very athletic, fast, explosive powerful, hard to tackle.”
It’s refreshing to have such a vibrant and positive presence in the locker room amid a slew of negativity, as Smith-Schuster’s infectious personality has earned him thousands upon thousands of fans outside of the city of Pittsburgh by just being himself. It remains to be seen if Smith-Schuster will be replacing Brown as the team’s number one receiver in 2019. For now though, JuJu will get to live out a childhood dream of playing in the Pro Bowl, a well deserved achievement for the superstar in the making.
The Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 27th at 3:00 PM ET in Orlando, Florida. You can watch it on ESPN/ABC television networks.
NFL Announces Coaches can Return to Team Facilities
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that coaching staffs may return to team facilities Friday, June 5 in a memo issued to teams Thursday morning.
Here is the crux of the memo that just went out to teams from the NFL regarding coaches being back in the building safely. Still no players, but a reason for optimism. pic.twitter.com/A8LyqqHJK3— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 4, 2020
Staying consistent with their message throughout the reopening process, coaches may return only if clubs have “received necessary permission from state and local governments.”
Clubs were informed last week that coaches will count towards the maximum number of employees permitted in facilities, but the total number allowed will increase from 75 to 100 tomorrow as well.
While Goodell has not yet announced when all players will be cleared to return, he did add that the league is still working “with clubs medical staffs to implement a program of COVID-19 testing” prior to players coming back.
Injured and rehabbing players were some of the first who received the green light to return to team facilities, and have been back for a few weeks now.
Club facilities were initially closed by the league back on March 25 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While coaches are likely eager to return to their team facilities, they should make themselves comfortable for the long haul.
Goodell’s memo comes a day after multiple reports that the league informed franchises they must conduct training camp from their practice facilities this August.
This would mean the Steelers will be prepping for the season on the South Side, instead of making a 55th-consecutive trip to St. Vincent College in Latrobe.
Art Rooney II, Steelers Issue Statements on Killing of George Floyd, Protests
Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II released a statement Wednesday on the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and the ensuing protests seen across the nation.
“Over the last week, we have witnessed the anger and frustration in our city and around the country relating to the killing of George Floyd and the recent deaths of African-American men and women. We have also witnessed the good in so many people who have peacefully expressed their concerns.”
“I am proud to hear the voices of many of our players who have spoken out against racism and injustice and called for unity. As an organization, we will continue to listen to our players, coaches, alumni and leaders in our community and work together to bring awareness and change in the effort to create a more fair and equal community.”
A number of prominent Steelers players also shared statements and comments regarding Floyd’s death and the nationwide protests, including Cam Heyward, Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner, Vince Williams, JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.J. Watt.
Defensive end Cam Heyward:
“A friend, a brother, a father, a son, just someone you meet, these are different ways people might know George Floyd. To know that the color of my skin could be at the discretion of someone who is supposed to protect is truly disheartening. I’m praying for the Floyd family.”
“To know a brother, a friend or someone I care about could be gone due to this just hurts. It’s not acceptable. Thank you for the people who do serve the right way and continue to protect our freedoms. I wish all held up his end and cared for all.”
“We all have people we care about and the fact that we can’t believe in everyone who is in the position of power to keep all safe angers me and tears me up. Change must happen. Our children are inheriting a world that is not improving. Life should be precious.”
“I still can’t find my words to make sense of it all. Too many have died, and not enough has changed.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger:
“The cruelty and injustice must stop, racism must end, and love must find a way to prevail. We are all children of God, equal in his eyes, and must hold one another accountable to fair and just standards.”
Running back James Conner:
“If we keep showing hate and violence, we will continue to have hate and violence. If we keep showing peace and love, we will have peace and love. I’ve retweeted disturbing and negative videos to HOPE they understand, but I will only be posting love from here on out. We know what’s been done and know it’s wrong.
“Make the Twitter timeline full of positivity. Like I said, I’ve been guilty of retweeting negative content, but that’s not it. They want the sickening and shameless videos at 100,000+ retweets to keep us divided. Make unity and togetherness the only content we see.”
Inside linebacker Vince Williams:
“Send me the GoFundMe of businesses that have been destroyed by the riots. I’ve done independent searches, but hopefully this helps me to be more thorough.”
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster:
“Our country is in pain right now, and coming together is the only way to heal each other. No more injustice!”
Outside linebacker T.J. Watt:
JuJu Smith-Schuster Delivers Pizzas to Steelers Fans
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is bringing some joy to fans during tough times.
Smith-Schuster spent his Tuesday afternoon delivering pizzas for PizzaHut, and even took the time to snap a pic with a young fan, courtesy of JimStamm22 on Twitter.
Hopefully, this gives everyone a little lift today. @TeamJuJu just delivered @pizzahut to our house in Pittsburgh. He even took a little time to take a picture with our son, Ben. Thanks Juju, you made our day!!! 👍😁🍕#Steelers #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/u7u561SheP— ForTheCity_412 (@JimStamm22) June 2, 2020
A fan favorite, Smith-Schuster is entering his fourth season in Pittsburgh.
After an explosive sophomore season in 2018, Smith-Schuster battled injuries and inconsistent quarterback play that combined for a lackluster 2019.
With the return of franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Smith-Schuster appears primed to deliver more than pizzas this upcoming season.