Last Sunday afternoon, immediately after Steelers rookie receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster pulled in a 31-yard touchdown pass that helped lay the early groundwork for what would become a 29-14 victory over the Bengals at Heinz Field, I waited with bated breath for the celebration.
As we saw earlier in the year, following Smith-Schuster's first two touchdowns of 2017, the youngster loves to get creative with his celebrations.
But when running back Le'Veon Bell quickly joined JuJu, and then immediately made his way over to the goal posts, the first thing I thought was, "Nooooooo! Don't do it, JuJu, don't let Bell force you into punching the goal posts! That's 15 yards!"
As you now know, however, the duo didn't have any celebration of that sort in mind; instead, they engaged in a game of hide-and-seek, with JuJu acting as the seeker.
When I saw this—right smack-dab in the middle of a one-touchdown game against a hated AFC North rival—I cracked up laughing (we're talking belly laughs).
Anyway, I don't know who will be the Steelers Rookie of the Year for 2017--one could certainly make a strong case for first-round pick T.J. Watt—but I know who my favorite rookie of 2017 is, and that's JuJu.
I believe it all began for me when I saw the social media debut of "Chef Ju" right before the start of the season (talk about your laugh out-loud moments).
Speaking of social media, Smith-Schuster already has an All-Pro Twitter profile, a gift that promises to keep on giving the whole year.
Via his Twitter page, I learned that JuJu, at 20 years old the youngest player in the NFL, doesn't have a driver's license and navigates the streets of Pittsburgh on a bicycle.
Talk about endearing yourself to the home fans.
As for JuJu's bike, it was stolen on Tuesday, and despite his veteran teammate, Vince Williams, taking to Twitter to exclaim that the rookie's "rich ass" should just buy another bike, I almost felt compelled to pitch in some money so that JuJu could purchase a new one (the bike has since been recovered).
Let's face it, Smith-Schuster is refreshing in the same kind of way that The Fresh Prince was when he descended upon Bel-Air and took some of the starch out of Uncle Phil and Carlton.
Similarly, Smith-Schuster has taken a lot of the starch out of what has become a stuffy Steelers Nation—both in the locker room and in portions of the fan base.
As far as his role in the receiver corps is concerned, JuJu is like the cute, new kid they always bring onto family sitcoms, once the other kids have gotten too old to be cute anymore (think Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch, Olivia on The Cosby Show, Joey on Gimme a Break, and Sam on Diff'rent Strokes).
Yes, while Antonio Brown is clearly still the star of the show, he's not quite as adorable as he used to be, and Smith-Schuster is now getting more of the funny lines. Speaking of which, Brown tried to join in on that aforementioned touchdown celebration with Smith-Schuster and Bell, but since he wasn't a part of the pre-game celebratory planning, Brown had this bewildered posture, and might have been thinking, "What are these screwy kids up to?"
As for Martavis Bryant, he’s become like that older sitcom brother who used to be funny but now has gotten a little too mature and only appears in one or two scenes per episode.
And the best part about JuJu's rookie campaign? I’ve gotten this far without mentioning just how good of a football player he has the potential to become.
In addition to his celebration skills, Smith-Schuster also seems to have a pretty potent all-around skill set for a receiver.
He gets open, he catches the ball, and he's not afraid to block downfield.
Smith-Schuster also isn’t afraid of the combat catch, as evidenced by his near-grab of a deep pass late in Sunday's game, when he fought the defender for the football before having it knocked to the ground at the last second.
Maybe that's why Smith-Schuster likely will have a more active role in the Week-8 "episode" vs. the Lions, while Bryant will be "away at college." (Head coach Mike Tomlin has already deactivated Bryant for the Detroit game after the twice-suspended receiver took to social media earlier in the week to air his frustrations and diss his rookie teammate.)
Smith-Schuster now might have a chance to endear himself to fans even more, if his cute "one-liners" continue in the form of increased touchdown catches and innovative celebrations.
Yes, Smith-Schuster has become such a bright light to me, I no longer want to talk about those anth.....I can't even bring myself to sully this article by bringing up that touchy subject.
I’ll leave you with another Vince Williams Tweet that perfectly captures what a breath of fresh air JuJu Smith -Schuster has become, even to his veteran teammates:
"Ju Ju is easily the most refreshing teammate ever. It's hard not to smile around him. He reminds me of how much fun football really is."