JuJu Smith-Schuster 'still playing physical' after suspension

PITTSBURGH -- JuJu Smith-Schuster is back from his one-game suspension and ready to be the Pittsburgh Steelers' X factor against the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Even if that means more big hits.

"I'm not going to change my game," Smith-Schuster said Wednesday.

The rookie receiver acknowledged that he has to be more careful after his vicious Week 13 block resulted in a concussion to Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cost Smith-Schuster a game check.

Smith-Schuster said he regrets taunting Burfict by standing over him after he knocked him to the ground with an upper-body shot.

"That's not me," he said.

Smith-Schuster didn't realize Burfict, a Steelers nemesis in recent years, was the player he hit until he looked down.

"'Oh, wow, that's Burfict,'" Smith-Schuster said he thought to himself. "And I looked at him and I was [like], 'Oh, damn.' That's when I realized, 'Here we go.'"

Teammates and coaches have lauded the rookie's imposing blocking since Week 2, when he took Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith to the ground. Smith-Schuster appreciates that support and plans to give the Steelers what they want.

"I am still playing physical," Smith-Schuster said. "That's not gonna stop my game. And that's how I've always been, since I was a kid. Keep moving forward, I am still going to make those blocks. Yes, I am going to be more careful. I'm going to aim for the shoulder and lower, just be more protective of the game."

Smith-Schuster, who turned 21 last month, is one of the most colorful personalities in the locker room, which he showed by tweeting a picture of himself wearing a Steelers helmet while watching last weekend's Steelers-Ravens game on television.

He said he took off the helmet only for bathroom breaks and commercials in order to "stay locked in."

Now he's coming for teammate Antonio Brown, who yelled from his locker after the Bengals game that "Touchdown Brown" would cover his fine. Brown suffered a concussion on a hit from Burfict during the final minute of a playoff victory in January 2016.

"He still owes me for my fine," said Smith-Schuster, who lost 1/17th of his $465,000 salary, or $27,352. "I'm going to try to get him [Wednesday]."

Smith-Schuster -- the Steelers' second-leading receiver, with 585 yards -- said he grew up watching Patriots stars Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Now he plans to make plays against their team.

"I'm so excited," Smith-Schuster said. "An honor, a blessing."