This past weekend Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was all about family, especially his mom, Sammy. “I went home to my mom’s house” for Mother’s Day, Smith-Schuster told Heavy.com. “We barbequed, we swam, we played poker, played some card games. We gave her [a] gift…. So it was actually pretty cool.”
But on Monday it was back to work, talking Steelers football and his new sponsorship with Charmin.
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Smith-Schuster ‘Super-Excited’ About New Offense, Playing with Najee Harris
It’s clear he’s looking forward to seeing what Pittsburgh’s offense can do in 2021, thanks in part to new offensive coordinator Matt Canada and the team’s first-round pick, running back Najee Harris.
“I can’t say too much, you guys are going to have to see for yourself,” he told Heavy.com about changes to the offense being installed by Canada. But “I’m super-excited to see what he has in store,” he added, noting that it’s going to be “pretty cool” to play with Harris.
“For him to add to our weapons—our offense—is great. [He’s] a guy who can run the ball, catch the ball, pretty much do it all,” he said.
Smith-Schuster’s is already somewhat impressed with the rookie’s marketing game, with Harris having generated positive media on draft night by hosting a draft watching party at the homeless shelter where he once lived. Harris is also part of the new ‘Up All Night’ series from Progressive Insurance, which features fellow rookies Justin Fields (Chicago Bears) and Ja’Marr Chase (Cincinnati Bengals).
“He’s a Cali boy—he’s not where I’m from but he’s from up north [and] I’m not surprised,” said Smith-Schuster. “He seems like a guy who has a really good personality and a good spokesman.”
17-Game Season = More Opportunities to Celebrate?
Meanwhile, Smith-Schuster is focused on working out and getting ready for the long haul of a 17-game season, while also pondering future touchdown celebrations.
“A lot of the training I do is usually just one-on-one sessions. I don’t like to be in a group,” he says, though he expects Steelers wide receiver/kick returner Ray-Ray McCloud to join him for workouts beginning this week. Smith-Schuster is not looking forward to the addition of a 17th regular-season game, saying he’s “not a fan” of the longer season, adding, it’s “just a lot on your body.”
If he had his druthers, he’d also prefer for training camp to remain at Heinz Field, where it was held in 2020.
“I like to sleep in my own bed, you know? When we had camp at the stadium it was actually really nice…. I live about five minutes from there, so it was very convenient. Latrobe is cool too but the thing about Latrobe is you’re in a bunk bed and dorm,” he said.
As for this year’s touchdown celebrations, “we have a younger group now, we’re more hip, more cultured, so we definitely have a lot in store.”
The dream, though, is to get quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to participate in a celebration. We’re trying to get Ben [involved], but I doubt that will ever happen,” he says, though he holds onto a sliver of hope. “This is the last year of his contract so we might be able to get him to do something.”
No. 9 Jersey Still a Possibility for Smith-Schuster?
In terms of the prospect of changing his jersey number from No. 19 to his old college number—No. 9—he sounds as if he doesn’t think he can go through with it.
“The nine is dope. I love the nine, I love the nine, I love the nine, but I don’t think I can change [from] 19. I think a lot of Steelers fans would be upset,” he admits, having floated the idea several weeks ago.
If he wanted to follow through with the making the change, he’d also have to compensate Steelers kicker Chris Boswell, and he has a pretty good idea of what it might cost.
“I’m probably saying somewhere around like 20K,” Smith-Schuster told Heavy.com. “He has had that number for a while now, so he’s going to be like, ‘Send me the check.’
“And I’ll be like, ‘I got you,’” said Smith-Schuster, imagining how the conversation might go.
An AI Version of JuJu?
Last but not least, Smith-Schuster has also been taking time this week to talk up his partnership with Charmin, which has a new BRB [bathroom break] bot in beta that the 24-year-old receiver is helping to draw attention to.
“As you know, I stream—to play video games. I also take meetings with football all day. Charmin has created this BRB bot which is basically an AI JuJu that takes over the screen” using pre-recorded imagery.
“So instead of me being rude and raising my hand and saying, ‘Can I go to the bathroom?’ Or just leaving the screen without me being there—’cause coaches do see that—being able to have this Charmin BRB bot basically puts me on screen and takes over while I use the bathroom.”
The tool allows the user to present two different versions of oneself—one for personal and one for business.
“For me, business is football and personal is Twitch [and] having a good time with my boys,” says Smith-Schuster.
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