Jeremy FowlerESPN Staff WriterClose
- ESPN staff writer
- Previously a college football reporter for CBSSports.com
- University of Florida graduate
“Keeping Up With the Steelers” is the best reality show going in the NFL.
Pro Bowl wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster compared his team to the Kardashians during a Super Bowl week appearance on ESPN’s First Take on Thursday.
“I think everyone has to stop being divas. I think we need to stop being the Kardashians and just play ball,” said Smith-Schuster, who led the team in receptions (111) and yards (1,426).
Asked which Steelers players are divas, Smith-Schuster laughed subtly and didn’t discuss names, focusing on himself.
“Being in that locker room, I’ve learned a lot,” he added. “I know that I would never want to be a problem to any franchise.”
The 2018 season saw Le’Veon Bell hold out for the entire year and Antonio Brown frustrate the organization by skipping the Saturday walk-through during Week 17. Brown, who’s now on the trading block, also got heated in a midweek team setting.
After a Week 12 loss in Denver, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made headlines when he said on his weekly radio show that Brown didn’t run the proper route on a goal-line interception, that he wished he threw to Smith-Schuster on all four downs of the goal-line sequence, and that rookie receiver James Washington didn’t trust his hands on a dropped pass earlier in the game. The Steelers finished the year 9-6-1 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Smith-Schuster isn’t the first Steelers player to compare his locker room to the hit reality show.
“Ah man, we are — Kardashians,” tight end Jesse James told PennLive.com on Dec. 31. “We have, I mean, we’re something. It’s Le’Veon Bell issues, you have more stuff popping up weekly, Jeremy Fowler’s reporting stuff about Le’Veon every other week. There’s just people calling people out. We were in the front of the ticker on ESPN too much for just reasons that weren’t related to football and not for us playing great ball. It was more distractions.”
Despite the drama, the Steelers were in a position for a fifth straight double-digit-win season but couldn’t close out games, ranking among the league’s worst in turnover margin (minus-11) and kicking (seven missed field goals). They lost their last four games by a combined 16 points.
It’s no secret that Steelers leaders would like a football-focused, drama-free environment in 2019.
“We’ve just gotta grow, put the pettiness behind us,” defensive end and captain Cam Heyward said last week at the Pro Bowl.
In his appearance, Smith-Schuster also praised James Conner, who made the Pro Bowl in replacement of Bell. Smith-Schuster wouldn’t mind keeping all his playmakers together, Bell included.
Smith-Schuster won the team Most Valuable Player and credited Brown with his help drawing double-teams. The two are believed to have a good relationship despite Brown’s issues with the team.
“For me, personally, let’s keep the guys, focus on the main goal and win the Super Bowl,” Smith-Schuster said.