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Leave it to JuJu Smith-Schuster to incorporate games into his recovery following a season-ending shoulder surgery in October.
The Steelers’ star receiver, who’s also known for his love of video games and dancing on TikTok, told The Post that he used Escape Rooms as a way to bond with his teammates during his ongoing rehab process.
“I’m traveling with the team, but I can’t be out there, so I set up Escape Rooms with my receivers. It really helps us work together as a team because we have to figure out the game and it’s like team bonding.”
An Escape Room is a group activity in which a team of players must find clues, accomplish a variety of tasks and solve puzzles in a limited amount of time in order to ‘escape’ their location.
Smith-Schuster named recievers Chase Claypool and James Washington as two of the most entertaining teammates to play the game with.
“[Claypool] is always involved, always staying stuff and thinking he knows,” Smith-Schuster said, laughing.
Smith-Schuster said he’s “feeling good” after undergoing shoulder surgery in October.
His 2021-22 campaign was cut short in the second quarter of a Week 5 win over the Broncos, when he took a hard hit by Denver defensive back Kareem Jackson. Smith-Schuster exited the game and did not return.
The wideout caught 15 passes for 129 yards in four and a half games before the injury.
“I think the hardest part for me is the mental part — not being able to be out there and play,” Smith-Schuster said. “I’m just so used to being on the field. I’ve have injuries where I’ve torn my thumb, broke my hand and maybe missed one game, if that. But missing a whole season is not a good feeling. But physically I’m doing great. I’m working out.”
#ad I heard y’all had moves. Now I wanna see ‘em. Take on #DoTheJuJu @gotmilk #ad dc: @phil_wright_
When he’s not working out and playing Escape Room, Smith-Schuster said he’s usually “gaming, on social media and hanging with my dog.”
Smith-Schuster said being a member of Team Milk — a group of athletes that fuel their performance and recovery with “real milk” — has helped him feel stronger in his recovery, by drinking milk daily for muscle repair, rehydration and replenishment. He even has his own Team Milk TikTok dance called “Do the JuJu.”
The USC product said he’s seeing the game from a whole new perspective now that he’s watching from the sideline.
“I’m a coach, I’m on headset,” he said, laughing. “I’m watching and learning from both perspectives, so I’m actually getting smarter.”
Fired up for tomorrow, let’s keep it going Pittsburgh 🔥💛 pic.twitter.com/Oi3i9gLzbQ
The whole experience has also given him a new appreciation for his coaching staff and veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
“I really do admire and appreciate our coaches and coaching. From being in their shoes right now and seeing things from their point of voice, wow. These guys put the time and work in. It’s not a 9-5 job.
“As coach Tomlin would say, ‘You’re not paid by the hour.’ You’re always working no matter what. Being in the coaches’ shoes versus being in the players’ shoes. It’s a lot and I respect what they do. I enjoy it because I’m learning so much more that I didn’t know.”
Smith-Schuster has heard all the noise about this season possibly being Roethlisberger’s last. But, he’s living in the present, and soaking in all he can from the Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
“You talk about a guy who’s been in the league for quite some time, he’s won Super Bowls, he’s done it all… Playing with him the past four-five years, he’s the only veteran on this team. He has to deal with so many personalities. He’s doing a great job, and it’s not something that’s easy. He’s a great leader.”
If tonight is the last ride at home, I have to say thank you to one of the best QBs in NFL History for welcoming me into this league, helping me grow, and being there for me in every step of my career. It’s been an honor to catch passes and take the field with you.
Thank you, 7! pic.twitter.com/YsL53rfpfE
Roethlisberger has hinted that this year’s campaign is likely his last. He was teary-eyed after playing what could’ve been his last home game as a Steeler on Monday, a win over the Browns.
While Big Ben’s future plans remain a mystery, the same goes for Smith-Schuster, who is set to hit the open market in 2022 after his one-year deal with Pittsburgh is up. His upcoming free agency, though, isn’t top of mind for the Pro-Bowl receiver.
In December, Smith-Schuster said he hopes to “re-sign with the Steelers again for another four more years,” in a holiday-themed video posted to the team’s Twitter.
Since entering the NFL in 2017, Smith-Schuster has 323 career receptions for 3,855 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Time will tell if he returns to Pittsburgh, or begins a new chapter with a new team.