Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster may not have danced on the Browns’ logo prior to last week’s loss in Cleveland, but he still managed to give them bulletin-board material ahead of Sunday night’s wild-card game.
The 24-year-old, who led Pittsburgh with 97 catches this season, was asked Thursday whether this Browns team had a different vibe than in previous years. Considering that Smith-Schuster entered the NFL in 2017 when Cleveland finished 0-16, the answer appeared to be obvious. The 2020 group actually, you know, won a few times.
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But in true AFC North fashion, Smith-Schuster refused to say anything complimentary about a division rival.
“I think they’re still the same Browns team I play every year,” Smith-Schuster said. “I think they’re nameless, gray faces. Yes, they have a couple good players on their team, but at the end of the day, like, I don’t know. The Browns is the Browns. … They’re a good team, but I’m just happy we’re playing them again this Sunday.”
Here’s the necessary context on the “nameless, gray faces” part: That is one of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s common expressions. Former Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark told ESPN.com’s Brooke Pryor that the “Tomlinism” essentially means the Steelers don’t care about anyone outside of their locker room because “if we go out and if the Pittsburgh Steelers do what the Pittsburgh Steelers are supposed to do, we beat anybody.”
Still, Smith-Schuster’s general message — “the Browns is the Browns” is about as dismissive as you can get — may have ruffled some feathers. Cleveland linebacker Mack Wilson appeared to respond to Smith-Schuster’s comments on Twitter.
An NFL playoff game between the Browns and Steelers was always going to be heated. Smith-Schuster just threw in a little extra spice.