JuJu Smith-Schuster mimicked one of Mike Tomlin's favorite sayings during a recent media session ahead of Sunday's wild card playoff game against the Browns. Smith-Schuster's Steelers are looking to take advantage of a Browns team that has been forced to virtually practice this week due to their ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
Along with borrowing a phrase from his coach, Smith-Schuster also offered some virtual bulletin board material for the Browns when asked about the Pittsburgh's upcoming opponent. Specifically, Smith-Schuster was asked if he feels a different energy from the Browns, who will officially end their 18-year playoff drought on Sunday. The Browns, 11-5 during the 2020 regular season, were 0-16 during Smith-Schuster's rookie season.
"Nah, I think they're still the same Browns that I've played every year," Smith-Schuster said, via ESPN's Jake Trotter. "I think they're nameless gray faces. They have a couple of good players on their team. But at the end of the day … the Browns are the Browns. It's AFC North football. They're a good team. I'm just happy we're playing them again."
The "nameless face" comment comes from Tomlin, who stresses to his team that how they play and execute Pittsburgh's game plan is more significant than the Steelers' opponent. That part of his quote likely won't upset the Browns, but his reluctance to acknowledge Cleveland's resurgence since 2017 may ruffle some feathers in Cleveland in the days leading up to kickoff.
Smith-Schuster is not even a month removed from being asked my Tomlin to stop dancing on opponents' logos following the Steelers' three-game losing streak. Members of the Bengals and Bills said they took exception to Smith-Schuster's pregame actions, with Bengals safety Vonn Bell drilling Smith-Schuster (causing him to fumble) at the start of Cincinnati's upset win over the Steelers in Week 15.
A soon-to-be free agent, the 24-year-old receiver caught 97 passes for 831 yards and nine touchdowns during the regular season. He caught six passes for 65 yards and a score in Pittsburgh's Week 17 loss to Cleveland.