Updated: Apr 9
(Screenshot of JuJu Smith-Schuster on the "Fierce Talk with Ryan Garcia" podcast)
Surprisingly, JuJu Smith-Schuster has still not signed with a team as of Friday morning. Legal tampering started on Monday and the start of the new league year began at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Due to the salary cap being down almost $16 million from last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and this year's wide receiver draft class being loaded, teams are not giving out big contracts to the high-end free-agent receivers.
While it's a stretch, some believe teams are not signing Smith-Schuster to a huge contract because of his off-the-field social media branding antics. I think it simply has more to with the cap being down and that Smith-Schuster is more of a No. 2 than a No. 1 receiver.
Starting in Week 9 against the Cowboys last year, Smith-Schuster started a pregame ritual where he danced on the opposing team's logo at the 50-yard line and then posted it on TikTok. It didn't become an issue until the Steelers lost to the Bills in Week 14. It was just their second loss of the season. Bills players after the game said they thought what Smith-Schuster did by dancing on their logo was disrespectful and it gave them extra motivation.
Smith-Schuster did it again the following week against the Bengals, and this time the media had the cameras on him before the game. It was becoming a bigger story than it needed to be. The Steelers got upset by the Bengals 27-17 and Smith-Schuster did not have a good game. Late in the first quarter, he took a big hit from Bengals' strong safety Vonn Bell that caused him to fumble the ball and Cincinnati recovered. The Bengals capitalized off the turnover and drove 38 yards down the field and scored a touchdown to take a 10-0 lead. Smith-Schuster had just three receptions for 15 yards in the loss to Cincinnati. Mike Tomlin met with Smith-Schuster a few days later and told him to stop doing the TikTok dance, as it was becoming too much of a distraction to the team.
Smith-Schuster was on boxer Ryan Garcia's "Fierce Talk" podcast earlier this month and his pregame TikTok dance was brought up.
"When I was dancing on logos and like doing TikTok dances bro everybody was like, 'Yo, that's the reason why you're losing.' No, we're not losing because of that, we're losing because we're ass," Smith-Schuster said. "Like we literally went 11-0, and before I was doing Tik Tok dances on the Dallas Cowboys logo going in doing it the whole time, doing the Corvette, Corvette and now everybody wants to blame me because we're losing. And me just doing that, people were like, 'Oh yeah, you're the reason why we are losing.' Nah, we're losing because we just suck. We lost some key players on both sides of the ball but at the end of the day we just got outcoached, outplayed and that's just facts. I'm just speaking facts."
Despite getting heavily criticized for his pregame TikTok dance both locally in Pittsburgh and nationally, Smith-Schuster says he's going to continue to be his outgoing fun self.
"And the whole social media thing, bro. I'm going to post, I'm going to show my personality. Like that's what you're going to get, whether you like it or not," Smith-Schuster said.