When rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster first made his presence known to Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict in 2017, it created a moment that will live in the memories of Pittsburgh Steelers fans for years to come. With a block heard around the world, as far as Steeler Nation was concerned, Smith-Schuster instantly endeared himself to millions of fans.
For some viewers, the block was clearly illegal and the one-game suspension that followed unquestionably lent some validity to that belief. It must also be acknowledge that Smith-Schuster standing over Burfict’s prone body did little to suggest the result of the play was not purely accidental.
However, we root for the Steelers here and not the Bengals, and given the despicable acts fans have seen Burfict perpetrate over the year, it is hard to blame anyone for revelling a little in the karmic-justice they witnessed on that play.
While the loss of a weeks pay might have hurt Smith-Schuster at the time, it appears the money he might save in the long-term as a consequence of the block will dwarf any amount he was fined. When speaking to Master Tesfatsion of Bleacher Report in a recent interview, Smith-Schuster noted how generous fans had responded to the play.
“I didn’t know how big it was to take Burfict out like that. After that hit, I don’t have to pay for anything. When I go to bars, I don’t have to pay for drinks or anything. “Yo, we appreciate what you did,” and stuff like that. I remember my last week here [during the season], I didn’t have to pay for no meals. I went out to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner almost every day and didn’t have to pay for nothing.”
Set to face Cincinnati in Week 6, Smith-Schuster is well aware that Burfict will be looking for him, and the young receiver is under no illusion about the type of player he is up against.
“It’s going to be crazy. I’ve gotta keep my head on a swivel. He’s a savage.”
How long Smith-Schuster will be able to dine for free on the back of his block remains to be seen, but if he were to give a repeat performance of the play in 2018, it would not be hard to imagine some within Steeler Nation being prepared to buy him beers for the rest of his life as a consequence.