PITTSBURGH – Grab one end of a thick, knotted rope, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Cobbler dug his feet in and used all of his muscular 6-foot-1,215-pound frames to pull back as tightly as possible. At the other end, however, a 425-pound lion held the rope in her mouth and withdrew with ease to control the tug of war against the NFL-wide receiver.
After a few minutes, Smith-Schuster gave in to the lion’s power and his end of the rope went slack as he loosened his grip to surrender.
A few days later, the upcoming free agent posted the video on social media, speculating about a deeper meaning of the stunt.
Maybe Smith-Schuster will sign with the Detroit Lions? Maybe he’s in a tug-of-war with the Steelers over his future with the franchise?
Or the best explanation for the post: it’s just JuJu to be JuJu.
Most likely, there isn’t a big behind-the-scenes tug-of-war between the Steelers and their star-wide recipient. Smith-Schuster meets the free hand for the first time, and although he was a key element of the offensive last year as a dependable third-party target and a gritty player who could punch through the defenders for extra yards, the Steelers historically don’t give broad Contracts to broad recipients. Just Hines Ward and Antonio Brown have received second orders in recent Steelers history.
“I would like to stay in Pittsburgh,” said Smith-Schuster after losing to the Browns in the first round of the playoffs. “I’ve built a strong foundation and a strong following. I love Coach Tomlin and Coach Ike, everyone I’ve been with. They’ve helped change the way I do, I love the game of football and I would love to do it again.” ” . “
Earlier this week, Smith-Schuster hinted at a departure and commented on an Instagram post by Offensive Lineman Zach Banner about the silence on social media until he signs his new contract.
“I wish I could get one,” wrote Smith-Schuster, adding three tearful emojis.
– Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) February 28, 2021
Even if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger Smith-Schuster advocates, all signs point to a departure from the fan favorite, leaving a space with less personality but a lot of talent.
Without Smith-Schuster, the Steelers will turn to Diontae Johnson, James Washington – which enters the final year of its rookie deal in 2021 – and recipient in the second year Chase Claypool. You could also choose to bring back the returnees and the restricted free agent Ray-Ray McCloud.
The signed trio gives the Steelers plenty of playmakers. Claypool appeared as a rookie with nine touchdowns and 873 yards, and Washington showed a stronger bond with Roethlisberger in the couple’s second full season.
See what happens when JuJu Smith-Schuster tries to get Ryan Garcia body shots.
First year offensive coordinator Matt Canada favored strong vertical passing in his college offenses, which is a good sign for Claypool and Washington if Canada implements a similar scheme in Pittsburgh.
While Johnson’s speed can make him a deep threat, he is most likely used in Canada’s signature jet sweeps.
Johnson was Roethlisberger’s most popular target by volume, with 144 goals and 88 receptions, but he went through routes where he was more known for the catches he didn’t make. Provided he resolves his drop bouts, he will be an important piece in executing Canada’s pre-snap movement and stealth games.
But even with these weapons, the Steelers will still need help to make up for Smith-Schuster’s loss, starting with identifying the team’s next slot recipient.
When McCloud returns, his size and speed make him an obvious candidate to fill Smith-Schuster’s role in the slot.
The Steelers could still seek help filling the large reception room with cheap agents or a late pull pick. The Steelers had previously tried Pitt’s former Quadree Henderson product, which successfully jet sweeped on Canada’s offensive, but was waived before the end of training camp in 2020.
The Steelers could try to add free funds Nelson Agholor, which had its best season in Las Vegas a year ago with 896 yards and eight touchdowns, but its production kept its price tag out of reach. If the Steelers choose to look for an insider in the draft, they could target players like South Carolina Shi Smith, Clemson Amari Rodgers or Western Michigan D’Wayne Eskridge. After all, the Steelers love their MAC products.