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

The very last time the Pittsburgh Steelers posted a dropping document at season’s conclusion, Ben Roethlisberger was placing on pads at Miami (Ohio) College. That was 17 several years ago.

Coming into the 2021 marketing campaign, some puzzled if that Steelers streak may well conclusion — even in advance of their long term Hall of Fame quarterback hurt his still left pectoral muscle mass in a Week two loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. It’s the sort of uncertainty that JuJu Smith-Schuster can’t assist but embrace.

“I adore getting the underdog,” the Steelers fifth-yr wide receiver advised CBS Athletics. “It’s some thing new for me. It’s some thing new for the Steelers. It certainly will make me hungrier to win.”

The Steelers commenced the 2021 season with an upset victory in Buffalo, but for the workforce to contend until December and January, Smith-Schuster — who signed a just one-yr offer to return to Pittsburgh in March — will want to make the sort of impact he did in his to start with two seasons. Remember, this is a dude who as a sophomore NFLer out-did prime Antonio Brown in 2018, amassing a absurd 111 receptions for 1,426 yards (Brown had 104 grabs for 1,297 yards) — figures that make you want to halt what you might be doing and uncover a brand to dance on.

The USC alum correctly, skillfully, and most likely to the ire of his critics, leveraged his early dominance on the industry to turn out to be a social media megastar, discovered a gaming collective identified as Workforce Diverge, and form plenty of manufacturer partnerships. At the moment, he’s an ambassador for seven-Eleven—a company that he claims is “close to and dear to his heart,” due to the fact he drank blueberry Slurpees each individual weekend in substantial university and higher education. And he’s even moonlighting as a DJ.

Whilst the 24-yr-previous is doing accurately what a younger human being should really do — striving a bunch of unique items to see what sticks — his participate in on the industry hasn’t cleared the bar he established for himself as a neophyte. Around the very last two seasons, he’s averaged significantly less than seven-hundred yards acquiring.

CBS Athletics just lately caught up Smith-Schuster, who sang the praises of teammates Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson, mirrored on his possible “Last Dance” with Massive Ben, shared social media ideas to turn out to be an #elite influencer, and significantly a lot more. We even grilled him on his Madden information.

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

CBS Athletics: Tricky loss to the Raiders in Week two, but terrific win against the Charges in Week 1. How significantly stock do you just take in these to start with two games, and how important is a win against a Tremendous Bowl favorite coming out of the gates?

JuJu Smith-Schuster: I think it can be incredibly important. That “W” meant a lot due to the fact we played a Tremendous Bowl contender, at their industry, a workforce that knocked us off very last yr. At the same time, it can be important individuals really don’t choose a workforce or a season at the commencing of the yr. Prior to we participate in a activity or right after we participate in [a few of games]. We have younger men coming in, I think just one of our most important items that bought talked about and resolved in the offseason is our offensive line. 

Prior to each individual season, individuals normally put us as just one of the best 10 teams in the league. This yr, we had been ranked just one of the most affordable due to the fact of all the new parts we’ve bought. For us, a lot of individuals really don’t truly know what we are created of. You can say that we are the underdogs this season due to the fact of how challenging our program is, us owning a new (offensive coordinator), all that’s manufacturer new. We are not the massive puppies. Normally we are the massive puppies.

So you like that underdog function, you might be embracing it?

JSS: Yeah, I adore getting the underdog. It’s some thing new for me. It’s some thing new for the Steelers. It certainly will make me hungrier to win. Would make us hungrier to win. 

The rookie season that Chase Claypool put jointly in 2020 reminded me a lot of yours. Observing him in observe, actively playing alongside him on Sundays, what impresses you the most about Chase, and what do you think is his ceiling as a wideout in the NFL?

JSS: Chase is generally inclined to do what is most effective for the workforce. And I seen that in my to start with yr actively playing with him when items weren’t going our way. He stays hungry. When his variety is identified as, he will make a participate in, generally would like to make a participate in. He did that against the Charges [two] months [ago]. When we want a massive participate in to be created, we search to Chase to go down industry. Which is what I adore about him. 

In addition to the total social media thing, which he’s killing it on there too… He certainly sees me as his mentor and chief with that [laughs]… He’s bought the top, the size, the expertise. It’s all up to him about how considerably he would like to go, but I think he’s a variety just one receiver.

On the Steelers, you might be expressing?

JSS: On the Steelers, certainly. He can be a variety just one receiver any place in the league, truthfully. Exact same with Diontae [Johnson]. We’ve bought the most effective receivers in the league, man.

So you see most effective wide receiver in the league possible for equally Chase and Diontae?

JSS: Yeah. I think in our group on the Steelers, we have a lot of variety just one receivers. We are all just so younger, and when we participate in jointly, we are dominant.

Which is some substantial praise. What is actually the dynamic like involving the 3 of you?

JSS: We are of course competitive, on the industry we want to outdo every other for positive, but seriously it can be all adore. There is no, “Hey, I want the ball a lot more. I get this, you get that.” None of that stuff. It’s all about we just want to win. We all seriously believe that as soon as you win, anyone wins. Which is accurately what we’ve been doing around the several years and has created us prosperous.

You have played with so a lot of terrific offensive gamers in your quick job. Going down the checklist of dudes, it can be rather stacked. Who do you really feel like is the most effective offensive participant that you’ve got lined up with in Pittsburgh?

JSS: Massive Ben is variety just one on the checklist for positive. In addition to Ben, I would say it can be 3 men truthfully due to the fact they had been all insane gifted. We identified as them the “Massive Bs.” Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Le’Veon Bell. 

My rookie yr, when I bought there, people had been the men in the developing. I was like wow, these dudes are on yet another level. I failed to commence that yr. I was a backup to Martavis. To watch him participate in, to watch AB participate in and dominate, I just observed how legit people men had been. I appeared up to them. In observe, for the duration of the activity, 24/seven, people men had been generally balling. 

Who’s the most effective defender you’ve got competed against?

JSS: I would say Stephon Gilmore, for positive.

What will make him so particular? Various from other men?

JSS: When I’ve played against him, he’s incredibly legit. I’ve only absent against him twice, but he’s an exceptionally clever soccer participant. He just knows angles and techniques and all that, and he locked me up. I can’t lie. He’s the finest I’ve noticed on that side of the ball and the finest I’ve played against.

Circling back again to Massive Ben for a next, we’ve listened to the retirement rumors with him. Certainly, you signed your just one-yr offer with the Steelers heading into this yr. I’ve been sensing some ‘Last Dance’ variety vibes. Not as considerably as workforce dissension, but a lot more so it maybe getting Ben’s ultimate season in Pittsburgh. Is that the assumption in the locker space?

JSS: As of correct now, it can be rough. I think a lot of individuals really feel that this is Ben’s very last dance of truly going out there and actively playing. For me, I see how very good and dominant he can nonetheless be. 

Which is why I came back again, truthfully. I realized that if this is Ben’s very last yr and this is my very last yr with the Steelers, I realized we had been going to go out there and give it our all. I think it can be seriously neat that you just in no way know. We generally mess about in the locker space, telling him, “Hey man, you should really appear back again for five a lot more several years.” 

For him, he leaves a terrific legacy. If he decides to appear back again, remarkable. If he decides not to appear back again, we are psyched about anything he’s completed. It’s challenging to explain to. It’s possible down the line, primarily based on how we are doing as a workforce, he’ll make a decision.

It’s possible he’ll shock all of us and pull a Tom Brady and in no way, at any time halt actively playing. 

JSS: [Laughs]. It’s possible, maybe. I know acquiring hit the way Ben does, it can be taken a toll. But you in no way know. 

This previous offseason, you could have signed with Kansas City for a lot more income, a workforce that just created it to the Tremendous Bowl and is perfectly positioned to get there once more. A younger, likely GOAT-deserving quarterback in Pat Mahomes. If this was the NBA, I think the free agent in concern decides to signal with the workforce favored to win a ‘chip. Do you really feel like you can find a lot more participant loyalty and significantly less championship chasing in the NFL than in the NBA?

JSS: Oh, certainly. Simply because of free agency, NBA gamers are able to go wherever they want to go. Even gamers who usually are not free brokers. They can tweet this and that and get there a couple times later. With soccer, you really don’t have significantly management around what you can do. You can say what you want to say, of course, but it does not get you somewhere else essentially. 

If NFL free agency worked like NBA free agency, bro, teams would be stacked. It would just be just one-sided. Two dominant teams in the AFC, NFC. But the way the NFL is established up now, it truthfully balances items out a lot better.

What it sounds like you might be expressing is that equally systems are flawed, but that the system the NFL has in put makes a lot more competitive, and in the end better, participate in than in the NBA. 

JSS: For positive. Simply because each individual workforce in the NFL has star gamers. A number of star gamers. It’s generally a very good stability. There is in no way a workforce that’s just so just one-sided, head and shoulders higher than the relaxation. So a lot of teams have a probability to win a Tremendous Bowl every season, wherever that’s not seriously the scenario with the NBA.

Shifting gears, what is it about seven-Eleven that created you pick to husband or wife with them?

JSS: seven-Eleven is close to and dear to my heart. Increasing up, in substantial university, in higher education, I utilised to go to seven-Eleven to get Slurpees. My favorite taste was blueberry, I utilised to get that each individual weekend.

Now, I’m aiding them recruit the most effective workforce of influencers with Fuel Your Fandom. Me, Dak [Prescott], Erin [Andrews], we are striving to uncover superfan influencers. What happens is, if you post a innovative movie or photograph on social to display on your own as a superfan, you might be entered for a probability to win $eleven,000, with further income to devote on new seven-Eleven products and solutions. 

A single of the other items I think is seriously neat about this marketing campaign is that it taps into your social media stardom. As somebody who’s built an massive social next for himself on multiple platforms, together with an account for Boujee (JuJu’s bulldog with 226K followers and counting), can you supply me with a couple rapid ideas if I’m striving to be massive on social, like JuJu?

JSS: Oh, you striving to be massive on social? I like that. The just one thing I generally explain to most people is be on your own. Be reliable. Will not transform, really don’t consider to be phony. Be the most effective variation of on your own. Who you are and your identity, people go a lengthy way. I say that’s variety just one due to the fact you might be not going to fake to be somebody or fake to like selected items or do some thing that’s not you for incredibly lengthy due to the fact at some place in your daily life, you may get exhausted of it. 

The next thing is constantly engage with your audience. Certainly with what we are doing with seven-Eleven, it can be important individuals have Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, wherever in essence you can share these insane photos or video clips. Which is how we entail the seven-Eleven fanbase and the JuJu supporter base. So yeah, variety two is constantly posting and engaging with your fanbase. 

Third, generally be present with what is going on with culture. Like make positive that you might be engaged somehow in whatever’s sizzling. 

So once more, Quantity 1: Be reliable, be on your own. Quantity two: Frequently engage with your audience. Quantity 3: Generally do items that are relevant in culture correct now.

I really feel like you could be training a study course at USC about this, JuJu.

JSS: It’s amusing man. A lot of men who are 5-10 several years in the league, they hit me up asking what they can do on social. Can they do this, can they do that? Social has such a massive impact. When you might be able to make enough income off of social media and dwell off of it, it goes a lengthy way. Especially owning it [supplement] the income you get with soccer, due to the fact soccer certainly does not very last eternally. Which is why I see social media as such a optimistic thing, and I consider to provide as a function model in that room, talking about how important it is, for a lot of younger men. Young children. Hopefully, I can be training it just one working day.

Can you title your possess particular Madden rankings from each individual yr of your job? And by that I suggest, when every of the games to start with hit the shelf. 

JSS: Wow, that is just one thing no just one has at any time requested me! … Oh my god. 

If you really don’t know, just take a guess due to the fact I have the solutions in front of me.

JSS: Alright, my rookie yr, I would say I was a seventy three/74. My next yr I was possibly an 80. My third yr I would say I was an 86. My fourth yr I would say possibly eighty four. And this yr, I’m an eighty four. 

For somebody who’s guessing, that was rather spectacular. You bought 3 of them proper! Madden eighteen, to start with yr in the activity, you started out a seventy three. Madden 19, you had been an 80. Madden 20, you had been an 88. Madden 21, you had been an 86. Madden 22, you might be an eighty four.

JSS: Damn, search at me! I’ve appear a lengthy way. What a journey. [Laughs.]

Give me your Mount Rushmore of movie games. Top rated four movie games at any time.

JSS: Alright, neat. Uncharted four, most effective story manner activity. Really like it. Black Ops 1, just due to the fact I adore zombies. God of War has been close to and dear to my heart due to the fact I adore the story manner, the storylines are insane. And of course variety 4, it would have to be Madden. It’s so exciting that I’m in a activity that I grew up actively playing. I really don’t participate in as myself significantly any more, but it can be seriously neat to see myself in there.

Alright JuJu, ultimate concern for you: As a child, what was it or who was it that influenced you to participate in soccer?

JSS: I would say it was my stepdad. My stepdad came into my daily life when I was 4. My very last title Schuster, that’s his very last title, and I took it to embrace him and thank him. He’s generally been into soccer, and I liked that I discovered a activity wherever as a child, I could hit individuals and not get in difficulty. Like what? [Laughs]. Which is what the activity of soccer was to me. A probability to go out there, hit children, and not get into difficulty. It before long grew on me. I liked the activity at any time due to the fact then, to this working day.