PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – The first thing I learned about JuJu Smith-Schuster over the past few days is that he needs to purchase a lock for his bike.
That much is obvious when your bike — unbeknownst to you — ends up in the Mt. Oliver Police station after being entangled in some seedy transaction for $200.
Anyhow, getting past the bike lock stuff, what I have also learned about JuJu over the past little while is that he has the potential to have Pittsburgh in the palm of his hand.
He has a chance to be a star on and off the field.
He has the talent on Sundays.
He has the charisma when he’s out of his uniform.
He has that connection with the fan base.
He has that savvy way about him on social media and, damn, is the guy likable or what?
The future is all so simple to see for the rookie who played a hide-and-seek game after a touchdown on Sunday — if he plays his cards right here, kids and adults alike will be elbowing each other out of the way to grab his jersey off the shelves. Advertisers will be clamoring to use him as a pitchman. Again, this guy has boundless opportunity if he wants to utilize it.
It starts, of course, with his talents. Certainly JuJu would do well to cut back on holding a bit, but the guy who rides his bike around town (when it isn’t in the process of being stolen) has pulled in 17 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns. He’s averaging 13.6 yards per catch and it is apparent he has been able to acclimate himself to the NFL game. One would venture an educated guess that JuJu will do nothing but get better over the rest of this season and throughout his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It’s also easy to see JuJu flourishing because he won’t be counted on to be that No. 1 receiver, he won’t be saddled with the responsibility and pressure of being a top target as that will be Antonio Brown’s role for as long as Brown is in town. Such a second-dog role really might see JuJu do great things, as he’s already proven (by throwing devastating blocks) that he isn’t above doing all the little things to get better.
Then there is the off-the-field stuff.
JuJu is magic. Simply magic.
He has as firm of a grasp as anyone in the NFL on how to connect with that pivotal social media-driven young fan base. The younger portion of Steeler Nation, in a very short time, has already fallen in love with this guy — as evidenced by the groundswell of support he received over the whole stolen bike saga.
Think about it for a moment, because of his social media accounts, he pretty much turned the city into a giant “Where’s Waldo” book in search of a bicycle that had escaped his grasp.
That’s connecting with your audience.
That’s someone who is marketable as heck when advertisers — especially in football-crazy Pittsburgh — are looking for people to align themselves with.
In short, JuJu has got it. He has all of it. An infinite amount of it.
And it is just a matter of time — if he plays his cards right and continues down this path — that he will become one of the undeniable fan favorites in this town.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Check out his bio here.