Pittsburgh Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster provided the Cleveland Browns bulletin board material ahead of Sunday's postseason matchup when he said the Browns were the same "nameless gray faces" he sees every season, adding "the Browns is the Browns."
Cleveland took the final phrase personally, using it as a rallying cry as they jumped out to a big lead and beat the Steelers, 48-37.
After the loss, Smith-Schuster didn't take back his remarks.
"I don't regret saying what I said," he said in a postgame Zoom call. "I said the Browns is the Browns. They came out and played a hell of a game. There's been games where you lose some, you win some, and today wasn't our night. Hopefully, the same Browns show up against the next opponent, and they go out there and do the same thing they did tonight and have a hell of a game."
Did the Browns need any added motivation in their first playoff game since 2002 against a division rival? No. They did not.
Did that stop them from using what JuJu provided as a fuel additive? Nope. It was clear after the game that Browns players heard what was said, with quarterback Baker Mayfield repeating the phrase on his jaunt back to the locker room.
The "nameless gray faces" line from Smith-Schuster is one Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has used in the past. In an effort to channel his coach, the Pittsburgh wideout inadvertently added kindle to dry firewood.
For his part, JuJu stacked the stat sheet Sunday night in what could be his final game in Pittsburgh, compiling 13 receptions on 19 targets for 157 yards and a TD as Pittsburgh was in comeback-mode from the first snap.
The free-agent-to-be hopes he'll be able to return.
"I'd love to stay in Pittsburgh," Smith-Schuster said. "I've built a strong foundation with the fanbase. I love Coach Tomlin, I love my coaching staff, (receivers) coach Ike (Hilliard). Everybody. ... They made me who I am today. ... I don't want to have to go to a different organization and change the ways and how I am. I love the game of football. And I would love to be a Steeler again."
Smith-Schuster added in an Instagram post on Monday afternoon that he "would love to be back for more, to be part of the group that brings this organization to where it belongs."
With a deep wideout corps that includes Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and James Washington, and a tight salary cap situation, the Steelers might not be able to afford to bring back JuJu.