Hot Take on Mark Madden: Say Goodbye to the Era of Showbiz Steelers

JuJu Smith-Schuster is a testament to the power of self-promotion across social media.

He was one of the most famous Steelers in recent memory.

But Smith Schuster wasn’t really good.

He had a great season one in five: 2018, when he got 111 passes for 1,426 yards as Antonio Brown absorbed most of the opponent’s coverage.

Since then, Smith Schuster has mostly served as a hard-playing slots receiver but has accomplished little. He had 97 catches in 2020, but at a meager 8.6 yards.

Smith-Schuster has had one 100-yard receiving game since Brown left the Steelers at the end of the 2018 campaign. He finished third over the Steelers in receiving yards in 2019 and 2020 before missing all but five games last season through injury.

Smith Schuster designed the Vontaze Burfict heeled Cincinnati shoes memorably in 2017. Everyone talks about it.

He also made deficits losing matches and playoffs in 2018 and 2019. He had another detrimental bump to the season in 2020. Nobody is talking about that.

His tenure in Pittsburgh was modest, perhaps disappointing given that he was a second-round pick.

But Smith Schuster had his bike stolen. He saturated social media with good guy moves, like going to a high school prom and giving a meal to a homeless guy. Dance on opposition slogans. Corvette, Corvette. It’s a TikTok legend. His charisma, not his theatricality, made him national television ads. He has a wonderful smile.

He’s built a bigger brand and better than his performance on the field.

Smith Schuster worked his way so deeply into Pittsburgh’s heart and mind that he thought he was a much better player than he really was.

Often compared to Hines Ward. That’s not true on Smith-Schuster’s best day.

Smith Schuster isn’t nearly as productive as Ward, challenging, team-driven, and not nearly as productive as the big game. Ward is the winner. Smith Schuster is not.

Ward was the best player in the Super Bowl. Smith Schuster has never won a playoff match.

Maybe Smith Schuster will fly high on false wings and win a ring in Kansas City. But it wouldn’t be better than Target No. 3 on the heads.

Kansas City awarded a one-year contract to Smith Schuster for a guaranteed $3 million. He could earn another $7.75 million through performance bonuses, but he won’t.

Smith Schuster is 25 years old. He must have reached the peak of his activity and profits. But all he got in free agency for two seasons was minimum interest and one-year contracts.

Yet Pittsburgh loves it. You’ll see plenty of Chiefs shirts all over town with the Smith-Schuster name and number.

I’m glad he’s gone. I’m glad Zack Banner was cut too.

Mostly a backup, he often got hurt, but he became a cult hero because he was frequently advertised as a “qualified healer” at Heinz Field in 2019. Then he became a radio host, started mining social media and imposed himself on the eyes of audience even when his career waned.

The era of showbiz is dead. Long live the Steelers.