Mark Madden: JuJu Smith-Schuster with perfect start to Steelers training camp |
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Antonio Brown showed up at Oakland’s training camp in a hot-air balloon. No lack of irony there. He immediately was put on the non-football injury list.

JuJu Smith-Schuster practically sneaked into Steelers training camp. No cameras, not even his own. He entered via a side door.

“I am just here to work, win games and win the Super Bowl,” Smith-Schuster said. “That is the main focus: the team and working together. JuJu came to work. It’s not about me. It’s about the team.”

Except for referring to himself in the third person (gag), Smith-Schuster’s opening remarks were perfect.

Smith-Schuster is entering his third season. He’s done well so far, but he fumbled away a playoff berth last year. He’s got to step up in Brown’s absence. He’s got to be a big reason the Steelers make it back to the postseason.

He’s got a better chance to do that acting like a professional, not a cartoon character.

Pro football isn’t showbiz. There’s an element of that, but it’s not the foundation. Showbiz receivers don’t win Super Bowls.

Yinzer Nation and its attendant media swooned over the bike, the prom and the water balloon fight. “LEAVE JUJU ALONE!” they screeched. “HE’S A KID! HE’S HAVING FUN! LET HIM HAVE FUN! FUN, FUN, FUN!”

Those same people, years from now, will defecate all over Smith-Schuster if he hasn’t won a Super Bowl.

That’s how it went with Brown. He was just a kid having fun until it got amplified to an obnoxious, distracting and damaging level. Then Brown’s defenders attacked what they had previously endorsed.

Smith-Schuster seems smart enough to cut that off at the pass. I applaud that. Give him full credit.

I bet he brought Fortnite to Latrobe, though.

I catch a lot of flak from the citizens because I don’t want Smith-Schuster to morph into Brown. I catch that flak mostly because the citizens know I might be right.

For the Steelers, this training camp must be about professionalism and preparation. The AFC North is wide open, and the excuse of distraction has been removed. Camp doesn’t always mean a lot. This one does.

Smith-Schuster is a monster talent. He’s got all the tools. He just needs to keep building his toolbox. By all accounts, Smith-Schuster has excelled in camp’s early days.

The bad news is, he’s roasting the Steelers’ defensive backs. Is Smith-Schuster that great, or is Steven Nelson not what was hoped? Or is Joe Haden fading? A lot depends on the answer.

The annual hype over Steelers camp is amusing, and no place more so than on social media. The media present likes to update constantly via Twitter, because that’s the new journalism. (Gag.)

Rookie inside linebacker Devin Bush broke up a pass Friday. A tweet referred to it as his first “impact play” as a Steeler.

To quote a great philosopher, Allen Iverson, “We’re talking about practice. Not a game. Not a game. Not a game. We’re talking about practice.”

Work rate, organization and execution mean a lot. But the effect is cumulative. There’s no such thing as an “impact play” at Latrobe. The players are rarely in pads.

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