I must admit
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, I’ve been so out of sorts with my new job, it’s hard to pay attention to all things Steelers these days. I’m driving to work before 6 a.m. now, right before morning drive time radio starts, and I don’t get to keep tabs on things throughout the day like I used to.Now, I just assume that everything is all quiet on the Steelers’ front, and if there is a monumental story (like, for example, Antonio Brown renting a plane and having the pilot write “Bleep the Steelers” in the sky), it will be so huge, I won’t be able to help but hear about it. So when news “leaked” on Wednesday that JuJu Smith-Schuster, the second-year receiver and newly-minted Steelers, NFL, Pizza Hut and Fortnite star, was 30 minutes late to Pro Bowl practice, the first thing I thought was, “Wow! They have Pro Bowl practice?” Seriously, the only pictures and footage I ever see from Orlando, Florida, the now annual home for the Pro Bowl, are of players posing with other players for, well, pictures while wearing either their red AFC jerseys or blue NFC jerseys. I’m sure they do conduct practices, but evidently they don’t go over tackling
, as evidenced by last year’s lack of it. How many times did the game-day officials blow the whistle as soon as Le’Veon Bell was in the grasp of a defender? It was worse the the Montreal Screw Job, when Shawn Michaels, The Heartbreak Kid, The Show Stopper, The Icon, Mr. Wrestlemania, tried to beat Brett Hart, The Hitman, The Excellence of Execution, with his own finishing move, The Sharpshooter, and Mr. McMahon had referee Earl Hebner ring the bell early so as to screw Hart out of the WWF title. Anyway, back to JuJu, who I’m sure will try wrestling before all is said and done. I thought it was funny how the media tried to get some traction with this story. I heard the “He’s heading down the same road as AB” engine trying to start a few times, but it wouldn’t (maybe because of the cold weather), and I’m glad. I couldn’t even find any articles about it online (maybe I’m the first one. “Damn it, BTSC, always stirring the pot!”), just a few reporters and fans on Twitter who tried to get the thing to turn over, but all they did was flood the engine. Smith-Schuster has already done so much to endear himself to the fans. Heck, he tailgated with them outside of Heinz Field mere hours before playing the Patriots. Why was he late to practice? Why does it matter? I’m sure it had something to do with being entertaining, with being endearing to the people, his people
, the ones who will no doubt elect him to something some day. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the man, and one heck of a talented wide receiver, I might add. If you think Pro Bowl JuJu is big, just wait for him to make his first Super Bowl appearance. Not only will the two weeks leading up to the game—including media day—be lit, but his actual performance in the game figures to be, as well.Team JuJu all the way to immortality! The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't surprised by the success of second-year running back James Conner.Conner continues to shine in the spotlight while two-time All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell remains away from the team. Conner enjoyed a history-making day, accounting for more than 200 all-purpose yards during the Steelers' 33-18 home win against Cleveland on Sunday."He's doing what he's been doing the whole time," Steelers right guard David DeCastro said. "He's keeping his head down and running really hard. He's a fun guy to block for."Bell, who finished as the NFL's third-leading rusher last season, still has not reported nor signed his one-year, $14.5 million franchise tender.Conner has taken full advantage while Bell has been away.He finished Sunday's game with 212 all-purpose yards, just 25 fewer than the Browns totaled as a team. Conner, a 2017 third-round pick, rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 66 yards."I'm just doing what I love to do," Conner said. "Just trying to be in the right spots for (quarterback) Ben (Roethlisberger) with the check-downs in the passing game, and just trying to put the ball in the right spots in the right game."He also made history while he was at it.Conner is the first Steeler to rush for at least 100 yards and two touchdowns in three straight games. He eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the third straight game and fifth time this season."He did a lot of good things (against Cleveland), running the ball and catching the ball for us," Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said. "He just looks good all the way around and runs the ball hard. He takes it very seriously and his preparation is very good. I can't say enough about him."Now, the rest of the league is taking notice.Conner's nine touchdowns rank second in the NFL and his 599 rushing yards are third. Conner, a former University of Pittsburgh standout, is also tied for the most touchdown runs, and has the second-most yards from scrimmage — 922 — through the first seven games of a season in team history."I had a front-row seat for his college exploits, so we are not surprised by his talents
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, play, demeanor, or his displays of will," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, whose team shares a practice facility with Pitt.Conner rushed for 135 yards, gained 192 all-purpose yards and finished with two scores during the season opener at Cleveland. He has 281 yards rushing, 404 all-purpose and four touchdowns in two games against the Browns.It wasn't easy for Conner on Sunday: Conner had 36 yards rushing on his first 12 carries. But on his next 12, Conner added 110 yards rushing. By the third quarter, the fans at Heinz Field were chanting his name — "CON-NER," ''CON-NER," — when he finished the period with 114 all-purpose yards."I'm proud of him," Roethlisberger said. "It was so much fun to watch him go and work and be successful and hear the crowd love on him."Conner didn't allow the slow start to affect his play."Things aren't going to go our way the whole game," Conner said. "You just have to have patience. We just wanted to stay focused and locked in."Conner enjoyed a strong finish with 60 of 75 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown, during a third-quarter scoring drive that gave the Steelers an 11-point lead. He added a 22-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter."It's just a moment that we have to take advantage of late in the game," Conner said. "We have the ball, trying to run the clock out and we need first downs. We're just trying to move those chains and stay on the field."Conner seeks a strong finish to the season, of course."I'm just trying to be a better back every week," Conner said. "I'm just running hard."
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