On a two-game losing streak, JuJu Smith-Schuster danced.
And now it’s a three-game losing streak for the Steelers.
There is not a correlation between these two events, but there is a connection. And Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he plans to take some action relative to Smith-Schuster’s pregame exhibitions.
Smith-Schuster’s pregame dances on the opposing team’s logo when playing on the road — recorded and distributed through the social media site TikTok — became an issue when his footwork on the Bills’ logo in Week 14 caught the attention of his opponents. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen was filmed saying in a pre-game tunnel meeting, “Let them do all the talking, all the f—ing dancing. We f—ing work.”
And it was cemented when the Steelers were upset Monday night in Cincinnati by the two-win Bengals, 27-17, following another routine, this one on the center logo at Paul Brown Stadium. Afterward, the player who created the pivotal play in the game suggested he was motivated at least in part by Smith-Schuster’s taunts.
Asked a week ago about what transpired in Buffalo, Tomlin said he was unaware of what his veteran wideout was doing during warmups.
Asked during his press conference Tuesday, he said, “I am aware of it and I do plan to talk to JuJu. But we’re professionals. I doubt any of those antics and things of that nature are legitimate motivating factors as you step into professional stadiums. But it’s about respect, and so we’ll have a conversation. But I understand it’s about the quality of play inside the white lines.
“And so I’m not seeking comfort or looking for excuses based on things that occur in pregame or things of that nature that are social-media related.”
With the Steelers already down 3-0 because of a flagging offense and a fumbled snap by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Smith-Schuster fumbled after fielding a silly short pass from his QB and being met with a hit by Bengals safety Vonn Bell. The Bengals recovered and soon were ahead, 10-0.
Bell said last week he considered those pregame dances “disrespectful.” After the game, when asked what he saw before making the pivotal hit, he responded succinctly: “19.”
The Steelers’ next game is against the Colts at home, so one imagines Smith-Schuster can dance on the logo at Heinz Field without offending anyone from Indianapolis. But the final game is on the road against the Browns. They may not have much of a logo, but they also don’t need much provocation to escalate a game against the Steelers.
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