"The man's a role model. In that situation, I didn't want it to end like that," Smith-Schuster said from his locker Wednesday. "I have no hard feelings against him. Obviously if we're ever in the same room, I'm going to say 'What's up' to him. I think hatred is a huge word to use against somebody. At the end of the day, he's a great player, he comes out every day with work ethic. He worked hard. Other than that, I don't have anything toward him like that."
Brown demanded a trade shortly after leaving the Steelers in Week 17 -- the same week Smith-Schuster won the locker room's Most Valuable Player award for catching 111 passes for 1,426 yards on the season, both team highs. Brown was traded in March, and the next month, he pointed out what he saw as Smith-Schuster's shortcoming to a fan on Twitter who highlighted Smith-Schuster's MVP.
Emotion: boy fumbled the whole post season in the biggest game of year ! Everyone went blind to busy making guys famous not enough reality these days ! 🤙🏾 by the way check the list https://t.co/2SWWT8k0jx— Antonio Brown (@AB84) April 7, 2019
Smith-Schuster, who fumbled in the final minute of a Week 16 loss in New Orleans, swiftly clapped back.
Crazy how big that ego got to be to take shots at people who show you love! Smh— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) April 7, 2019
Brown and Smith-Schuster had publicly supported each other during the 2018 season and formed one of the league's most potent pass-catching duos.
Smith-Schuster knows now he must lead by example and take on the double-teams that Brown used to command. Two years ago, Smith-Schuster was a rookie playing alongside Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell, also an All-Pro. Now, he plays alongside James Conner, Donte Moncrief and more.
Asked about what he learned from Brown's departure and his own role in the locker room, Smith-Schuster said he plans to stay true to himself. The third-year receiver has made a point to be more accessible to media and be a fixture in the facility.
"I never want to be the center of attention for causing problems," Smith-Schuster said. "I just try to stay positive as much as possible. When stuff like that goes sideways, I say what I say and then I back out and leave it at that."
Despite the icy ending with Brown, Smith-Schuster said he will remain a fan. HBO viewers will get a close-up look of Brown and the Raiders on this season's "Hard Knocks."
"I'll be super excited to see what he does and what the team does," Smith-Schuster said. "'Hard Knocks' will be interesting to watch."