JuJu Smith-Schuster Q&A: Steelers star on Ben Roethlisberger, new offense and potential jersey number swap


Few NFL players offer as much personality as JuJu Smith-Schuster, the star Steelers wide receiver. From pre-game dancing to “Fortnite” cameos, the former Pro Bowler is also an integral piece of Pittsburgh’s efforts to return to title contention in 2021. A favorite of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who’s back for at least one more run in Steel City, the 24-year-old pass catcher briefly flirted with other teams in free agency this March, weighing offers from AFC foes like the Chiefs and Ravens. But he’s secure in Pittsburgh until 2022, complete with a chance to reset his market and bring the Steelers their first Lombardi Trophy in more than a decade.

He’s also got a brand new partnership with Charmin. Yes, that’s right, the toilet paper company. In preparation for the 2021 season, JuJu spoke with CBS Sports to discuss Big Ben, Pittsburgh’s revamped offense, his future jersey number, draft-day memories and even the crazy way he’s set to help people take bathroom breaks:

Fresh off draft weekend, what do you recall about your own draft day? Did you know Pittsburgh was a likely landing spot?

JuJu: I thought I’d be nowhere near Pennsylvania or Pittsburgh. They didn’t seem that interested. I talked to Coach T for maybe two to three minutes. So I didn’t see myself ending up here. I saw myself somewhere like Arizona, the Dallas Cowboys, L.A. Rams, 49ers — those were the teams I thought I’d go to. And I was just nervous, you know, 20 years old. Once you get picked, though, at that point it’s all about getting ready to go.

Speaking of the draft, how much do you think Najee Harris will change the Steelers offense?

JuJu: I think he changes it tremendously. You know, we lost a teammate in James Conner. And (Najee’s) a guy that’s been on the big stage. Coach T actually called me about it, told me to reach out to him, and I told Coach T, ‘Finally, you drafted an offensive player in the first round.’ Because our defense, there’s at least eight to 10 first-rounders there. So it’ll be great.

You’ve talked a lot about returning to Pittsburgh because of Ben Roethlisberger. Do you think he’s got a lot left in the tank?

JuJu: I believe. I believe he has something left. A lot of people just go off their age, but he’s a guy who’s been doing it at the highest level for a while. I’d definitely take him over most other guys, because although he is older, his experience is up there. Also, when you lose guys like Maurkice Pouncey, like Al Villanueva, it’s tough to find leaders. Now, it’s maybe Dave DeCastro, and me, but I’m still young, so he’s important in that way, too.

What’s your relationship like with new coordinator Matt Canada, and what do you expect his offense to look like?

JuJu: Coach Matt, he’s definitely a guy I talked to a lot (last year), just discussing certain plays we should’ve called last season. Even these first two weeks of install, we’ve been getting into it — a lot of motions, a lot of different stuff, moving guys around. And with him, you gotta know all positions, too, you can’t just know one spot.

Does that mean we’re gonna see you in the backfield or throwing a pass this year?

JuJu: (Laughs) I don’t know about all that, but it’d be fun.

You’ve hinted at possibly changing your number from No. 19 to No. 9 under the new jersey rules. Will that happen?

JuJu: Everybody’s gonna want single digits now, so it might be tough. Also, I’ve kinda marketed 19 for the last four years, so there’d be a lot of fans who’d have to black out the ‘1’ on their jerseys. But I did get a really good reception to ‘9.’ So I could do that. Or I can just keep 19. … Right now, I’d say I’m like 50-50, honestly.

What’s the deal with your Charmin partnership? How did it come about, and what does it entail?

JuJu: I think we spend like half our lifetime on the toilet. And nowadays, with everyone doing stuff virtually — Zoom meetings, interviews — a lot of times I’ll catch myself needing to use the bathroom. So they reached out, and I was thinking, what is this about? Like, toilet paper? But it’s funny. … So there’s like 80 to 100 of us — coaches, players — in meetings we do, and it can be weird for us to be like, ‘Yo Coach, can I go to the bathroom?’ So Charmin’s making a ‘BRB Bot’ where an AI JuJu will come over and take your place if you need to go use the bathroom. So a virtual JuJu will come in and do what you need it to do — talk, laugh, whatever. … It’s in beta right now, but it’s really cool.





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