JuJu Smith-Schuster was highly criticized after dancing on the Bills‘ logo prior to the Steelers‘ Week 14 loss in Buffalo. Bills cornerback Jordan Poyer said that seeing Pittsburgh’s receiver dance on his team’s logo gave his teammates added motivation to beat the Steelers.
Despite the national backlash following last Sunday’s actions, Smith-Schuster danced on the Bengals‘ logo prior to Monday’s game in Cincinnati. The Steelers, losers of two straight after an 11-0 start, need a win over the Bengals to clinch their first AFC North title since 2017.
Smith-Schuster’s actions prior to Monday night’s game shouldn’t come as a surprise. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did not buy into the narrative that Smith-Schuster’s pregame actions last Sunday contributed to the Steelers’ 26-15 loss.
«I doubt, knowing the group that coaches that team, Sean McDermott, I’m sure they were motivated in all the proper ways,» Tomlin said, «and that had very little relevance in terms of the way that game was played.»
Tomlin instead pointed to the Steelers’ alarming rise in drops as one of the key contributors to Pittsburgh’s first two losses of the season. Tomlin is also hoping that Pittsburgh’s rushing game will assert itself Monday night after the Steelers rushed for just 68, 21 and 47 yards in its past three games.
«Our focus hasn’t changed there,» Tomlin said about his team’s desire to improve the running game. «We’re several weeks into a focus there and will continue to work. We haven’t necessarily seen the fruit of that work yet, and some of that can be traced to some of the short weeks we’ve had.»
The Steelers will be without James Conner, who is dealing with a quad injury. Replacing him is second-year running back Benny Snell, who rushed for 98 yards on 21 carries in Pittsburgh’s 2019 Week 12 win over the Bengals.