Never doubt Pittsburgh Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster's passion for football. Smith-Schuster shared a tearful, heartfelt speech about what the game means to him after sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury during Sunday's game.
Smith-Schuster delivered his message a day after finding out he would miss the rest of the season.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 14, 2021
Smith-Schuster appeared at the podium with his right arm in a sling. He fought through tears as he started his speech.
"Last night was the hardest night for me, because football has done so much for me in my life, more than you guys will ever know," Smith-Schuster began. "My stepdad put my in football when I was 4 years old. It was fun. You get to hit kids and not get in trouble, right? I always loved the game.
"Last night was hard for me because, when I got the call from the doctors, you know, shoulder injury, I thought you put it back in and you'll be fine within two weeks and our bye week is coming up and I was like, 'I can take two weeks off, come back and play this season.' Doctor called me and said, 'Hey, man, I think we have to do this surgery. You can get a second opinion.' And [he] said it was a season-ending injury.
"And I sat there and I cried. I cried all night. I cried because I love this game so much, more than anyone will know. I know the whole social media thing, and the whole TikTok and dancing and all that, I do it because it's my personality and I love it. Don't get me wrong.
"But football will always come first. Without football, I wouldn't be who I am today. Without football, this wouldn't be. I wouldn't ... be a role model for a lot of people. I cried that night because you just never know what the future holds for you. If I look at the light in front of me, and don't keep my head down and just keep pushing forward and I come back even stronger than I was this year, I know god has a bright future for me."
Smith-Schuster sustained a season-ending shoulder injury during the team's Week 5 win over the Denver Broncos. In five games, Smith-Schuster caught 15 passes for 129 yards and no touchdowns.
Steelers looking to rebound after slow start
Smith-Schuster's numbers were lower than usual as the Steelers' offense has struggled to open the season. The team scored 20+ points in just two of its five games this season. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger received criticism for his slow start. He has just 6 touchdowns against 4 interceptions through five games.
Though the team lost Smith-Schuster, Sunday's game offered hope that Pittsburgh can turn things around. The team scored a season-high 27 points against a tough Broncos defense. Roethlisberger had his best game of the year, throwing 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Losing Smith-Schuster hurts, but the Steelers have enough offensive weapons to handle his absence. If Roethlisberger shakes off his early-season rust, the team can still contend in an ultra-competitive AFC North.