JuJu Smith-Schuster wants you to call him and Steelers underdogs, talks Big Ben, media influencers and more

The final time the Pittsburgh Steelers posted a dropping file at season’s finish, Ben Roethlisberger was placing on pads at Miami (Ohio) College. That was 17 years in the past.

Coming into the 2021 marketing campaign, some puzzled if that Steelers streak would possibly finish — even earlier than their future Corridor of Fame quarterback injured his left pectoral muscle in a Week 2 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. It is the form of uncertainty that JuJu Smith-Schuster can not help however embrace.

“I like being the underdog,” the Steelers fifth-year large receiver advised CBS Sports activities. “It is one thing new for me. It is one thing new for the Steelers. It undoubtedly makes me hungrier to win.”

The Steelers started the 2021 season with an upset victory in Buffalo, however for the staff to contend till December and January, Smith-Schuster — who signed a one-year deal to return to Pittsburgh in March — might want to make the form of affect he did in his first two seasons. Bear in mind, this can be a dude who as a sophomore NFLer out-did prime Antonio Brown in 2018, amassing a ridiculous 111 receptions for 1,426 yards (Brown had 104 grabs for 1,297 yards) — numbers that make you need to cease what you are doing and find a logo to dance on.

The USC alum correctly, skillfully, and maybe to the ire of his critics, leveraged his early dominance on the sector to develop into a social media megastar, discovered a gaming collective referred to as Workforce Diverge, and type numerous model partnerships. At the moment, he is an envoy for 7-Eleven—an organization that he says is “close to and pricey to his coronary heart,” since he drank blueberry Slurpees each weekend in highschool and school. And he is even moonlighting as a DJ.

Whereas the 24-year-old is doing precisely what a teen ought to do — attempting a bunch of various issues to see what sticks — his play on the sector hasn’t cleared the bar he set for himself as a neophyte. During the last two seasons, he is averaged lower than 700 yards receiving.

CBS Sports activities just lately caught up Smith-Schuster, who sang the praises of teammates Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson, mirrored on his potential “Final Dance” with Large Ben, shared social media tricks to develop into an #elite influencer, and rather more. We even grilled him on his Madden information.

The next Q&A has been edited for readability, movement, and size.

CBS Sports activities: Robust loss to the Raiders in Week 2, however nice win in opposition to the Bills in Week 1. How a lot inventory do you absorb these first two video games, and the way vital is a win in opposition to a Super Bowl favourite popping out of the gates?

JuJu Smith-Schuster: I believe it is crucial. That “W” meant loads as a result of we performed a Tremendous Bowl contender, at their subject, a staff that knocked us off final 12 months. On the identical time, it is vital folks do not choose a staff or a season at the start of the 12 months. Earlier than we play a recreation or after we play [a couple of games]. We have now younger guys coming in, I believe one in every of our largest issues that obtained talked about and addressed within the offseason is our offensive line. 

Earlier than each season, folks normally put us as one of many prime 10 groups within the league. This 12 months, we had been ranked one of many lowest due to all the brand new items we have got. For us, lots of people do not really know what we’re made from. You’ll be able to say that we are the underdogs this season due to how laborious our schedule is, us having a brand new (offensive coordinator), all that is model new. We’re not the large canines. Often we are the massive canines.

So that you like that underdog position, you are embracing it?

JSS: Yeah, I like being the underdog. It is one thing new for me. It is one thing new for the Steelers. It undoubtedly makes me hungrier to win. Makes us hungrier to win. 

The rookie season that Chase Claypool put collectively in 2020 jogged my memory a whole lot of yours. Watching him in follow, enjoying alongside him on Sundays, what impresses you probably the most about Chase, and what do you assume is his ceiling as a wideout within the NFL?

JSS: Chase is all the time keen to do what’s greatest for the staff. And I observed that in my first 12 months enjoying with him when issues weren’t going our means. He stays hungry. When his quantity known as, he makes a play, all the time desires to make a play. He did that in opposition to the Payments [two] weeks [ago]. After we want a giant play to be made, we glance to Chase to go down subject. That is what I like about him. 

Apart from the entire social media factor, which he is killing it on there too… He undoubtedly sees me as his mentor and chief with that [laughs]… He is obtained the peak, the dimensions, the expertise. It is all as much as him about how far he desires to go, however I believe he is a primary receiver.

On the Steelers, you are saying?

JSS: On the Steelers, completely. He is usually a primary receiver anyplace within the league, truthfully. Identical with Diontae [Johnson]. We have got the very best receivers within the league, man.

So that you see greatest large receiver within the league potential for each Chase and Diontae?

JSS: Yeah. I believe in our group on the Steelers, we’ve a whole lot of primary receivers. We’re all simply so younger, and once we play collectively, we’re dominant.

That is some excessive reward. What is the dynamic like between the three of you?

JSS: We’re clearly aggressive, on the sector we need to outdo one another for positive, however actually it is all love. There isn’t any, “Hey, I would like the ball extra. I get this, you get that.” None of that stuff. It is all about we simply need to win. All of us actually imagine that after you win, everybody wins. That is precisely what we have been doing over time and has made us profitable.

You’ve got performed with so many nice offensive gamers in your brief profession. Taking place the record of dudes, it is fairly stacked. Who do you’re feeling like is the very best offensive participant that you’ve got lined up with in Pittsburgh?

JSS: Large Ben is primary on the record for positive. Apart from Ben, I would say it is three guys truthfully as a result of they had been all loopy gifted. We referred to as them the “Large Bs.” Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Le’Veon Bell

My rookie 12 months, once I obtained there, these had been the fellows within the constructing. I used to be like wow, these dudes are on one other stage. I did not begin that 12 months. I used to be a backup to Martavis. To observe him play, to observe AB play and dominate, I simply noticed how legit these guys had been. I seemed as much as them. In follow, throughout the recreation, 24/7, these guys had been all the time balling. 

Who’s the very best defender you’ve got competed in opposition to?

JSS: I would say Stephon Gilmore, for positive.

What makes him so particular? Completely different from different guys?

JSS: Once I’ve performed in opposition to him, he is very legit. I’ve solely gone in opposition to him twice, however he is an extremely good soccer participant. He simply is aware of angles and strategies and all that, and he locked me up. I am unable to lie. He is the best I’ve seen on that aspect of the ball and the best I’ve performed in opposition to.

Circling again to Large Ben for a second, we have heard the retirement rumors with him. Clearly, you signed your one-year cope with the Steelers heading into this 12 months. I have been sensing some ‘Final Dance’ sort vibes. Not so far as staff dissension, however extra so it presumably being Ben’s ultimate season in Pittsburgh. Is that the idea within the locker room?

JSS: As of proper now, it is robust. I believe lots of people really feel that that is Ben’s final dance of truly going on the market and enjoying. For me, I see how good and dominant he can nonetheless be. 

That is why I got here again, truthfully. I knew that if that is Ben’s final 12 months and that is my final 12 months with the Steelers, I knew we had been going to go on the market and provides it our all. I believe it is actually cool that you simply simply by no means know. We all the time fiddle within the locker room, telling him, “Hey man, you must come again for 5 extra years.” 

For him, he leaves an incredible legacy. If he decides to return again, wonderful. If he decides to not come again, we’re psyched about all the pieces he is executed. It is laborious to inform. Perhaps down the road, based mostly on how we’re doing as a staff, he’ll decide.

Perhaps he’ll shock all of us and pull a Tom Brady and by no means, ever cease enjoying. 

JSS: [Laughs]. Perhaps, perhaps. I do know getting hit the best way Ben does, it is taken a toll. However you by no means know. 

This previous offseason, you might have signed with Kansas Metropolis for extra money, a staff that simply made it to the Tremendous Bowl and is properly positioned to get there once more. A younger, probably GOAT-worthy quarterback in Pat Mahomes. If this was the NBA, I believe the free agent in query decides to signal with the staff favored to win a ‘chip. Do you’re feeling like there’s extra participant loyalty and fewer championship chasing within the NFL than within the NBA?

JSS: Oh, completely. Due to free company, NBA gamers are capable of go the place they need to go. Even gamers who aren’t free brokers. They’ll tweet this and that and get there a number of days later. With soccer, you do not have a lot management over what you are able to do. You’ll be able to say what you need to say, clearly, however it does not get you some place else essentially. 

If NFL free company labored like NBA free company, bro, groups could be stacked. It might simply be one-sided. Two dominant groups within the AFC, NFC. However the best way the NFL is about up now, it truthfully balances issues out loads higher.

What it sounds such as you’re saying is that each methods are flawed, however that the system the NFL has in place creates extra aggressive, and finally higher, play than within the NBA. 

JSS: For positive. As a result of each staff within the NFL has star gamers. A number of star gamers. It is all the time a very good stability. There’s by no means a staff that is simply so one-sided, head and shoulders above the remaining. So many groups have an opportunity to win a Tremendous Bowl every season, the place that is not likely the case with the NBA.

Shifting gears, what’s it about 7-Eleven that made you select to associate with them?

JSS: 7-Eleven is close to and pricey to my coronary heart. Rising up, in highschool, in school, I used to go to 7-Eleven to get Slurpees. My favourite taste was blueberry, I used to get that each weekend.

Now, I am serving to them recruit the very best staff of influencers with Fuel Your Fandom. Me, Dak [Prescott], Erin [Andrews], we’re looking for superfan influencers. What occurs is, in the event you submit a artistic video or picture on social to indicate your self as a superfan, you are entered for an opportunity to win $11,000, with further cash to spend on new 7-Eleven merchandise. 

One of many different issues I believe is basically cool about this marketing campaign is that it faucets into your social media stardom. As somebody who’s constructed an unlimited social following for himself on a number of platforms, together with an account for Boujee (JuJu’s bulldog with 226K followers and counting), are you able to present me with a number of fast suggestions if I am attempting to be massive on social, like JuJu?

JSS: Oh, you attempting to be massive on social? I like that. The one factor I all the time inform all people is be your self. Be genuine. Do not change, do not attempt to be faux. Be the very best model of your self. Who you’re and your persona, these go a great distance. I say that is primary since you’re not going to fake to be somebody or fake to love sure issues or do one thing that is not you for very lengthy as a result of in some unspecified time in the future in your life, you may get bored with it. 

The second factor is consistently interact along with your viewers. Clearly with what we’re doing with 7-Eleven, it is vital folks have Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, the place principally you’ll be able to share these loopy photographs or movies. That is how we contain the 7-Eleven fanbase and the JuJu fan base. So yeah, quantity two is consistently posting and interesting along with your fanbase. 

Third, all the time be current with what is going on on with tradition. Like just be sure you’re engaged someway in no matter’s sizzling. 

So once more, Number one: Be genuine, be your self. Quantity 2: Continually interact along with your viewers. Quantity 3: All the time do issues which might be related in tradition proper now.

I really feel like you might be educating a course at USC about this, JuJu.

JSS: It is humorous man. A whole lot of guys who’re 5-10 years within the league, they hit me up asking what they will do on social. Can they do that, can they try this? Social has such a huge impact. Once you’re capable of make sufficient cash off of social media and dwell off of it, it goes a great distance. Particularly having it [supplement] the cash you get with soccer, since soccer undoubtedly does not final perpetually. That is why I see social media as such a constructive factor, and I attempt to function a job mannequin in that area, speaking about how vital it’s, for lots of younger guys. Younger children. Hopefully, I may be educating it someday.

Are you able to identify your individual private Madden rankings from yearly of your profession? And by that I imply, when every of the video games first hit the shelf. 

JSS: Wow, that’s one factor nobody has ever requested me! … Oh my god. 

If you do not know, take a guess as a result of I’ve the solutions in entrance of me.

JSS: Alright, my rookie 12 months, I would say I used to be a 73/74. My second 12 months I used to be in all probability an 80. My third 12 months I would say I used to be an 86. My fourth 12 months I would say in all probability 84. And this 12 months, I am an 84. 

For somebody who’s guessing, that was fairly spectacular. You bought three of them appropriate! Madden 18, first 12 months within the recreation, you began out a 73. Madden 19, you had been an 80. Madden 20, you had been an 88. Madden 21, you had been an 86. Madden 22, you are an 84.

JSS: Rattling, have a look at me! I’ve come a great distance. What a trip. [Laughs.]

Give me your Mount Rushmore of video video games. Prime 4 video video games ever.

JSS: Alright, cool. Uncharted 4, greatest story mode recreation. Adore it. Black Ops 1, simply because I like zombies. God of Battle has been close to and pricey to my coronary heart as a result of I like the story mode, the storylines are insane. And clearly quantity 4, it must be Madden. It is so enjoyable that I am in a recreation that I grew up enjoying. I do not play as myself a lot anymore, however it’s actually cool to see myself in there.

Alright JuJu, ultimate query for you: As a child, what was it or who was it that impressed you to play soccer?

JSS: I’d say it was my stepdad. My stepdad got here into my life once I was 4. My final identify Schuster, that is his final identify, and I took it to embrace him and thank him. He is all the time been into soccer, and I beloved that I discovered a sport the place as a child, I may hit folks and never get in hassle. Like what? [Laughs]. That is what the sport of soccer was to me. An opportunity to go on the market, hit children, and never get into hassle. It quickly grew on me. I beloved the sport ever since then, to at the present time.

https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/information/juju-smith-schuster-wants-you-to-call-him-and-steelers-underdogs-talks-big-ben-media-influencers-and-more/ | JuJu Smith-Schuster desires you to name him and Steelers underdogs, talks Large Ben, media influencers and extra


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