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Steelers News: Did anyone see JuJu Smith-Schuster coming?

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back-to-back winners for the first time in this 2018 season after a solid performance vs. the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Week 6. With the team now able to relax on their bye-week in Week 7, they will hope to improve on their 3-2-1 record by beating the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens in Weeks 8 and 9.

Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-gold Links article.

This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.

Today we talk about JuJu Smith-Schuster, and how he has burst onto the scene in just his second year. Seriously, did anyone see this kid from USC coming as a second round draft pick? He literally seems to do it all:

  • Possession Receiver
  • Great Blocker
  • Deep Threat
  • Tremendous Hands
  • Not afraid to go over the middle

If you were someone who projected this from Smith-Schuster out of college, please make yourself known — because I certainly didn’t.

Let’s get to the news:

Ron Cook: JuJu Smith-Schuster made difference in win vs. Bengals, and he left in one piece

By: Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The first pass slipped through his hands, wiping out what should have been a big gain down the left sideline.

The second pass sailed by him when he appeared to short-arm the ball. What’s the term for that? Alligator arms?

It was enough to make you wonder if JuJu Smith-Schuster’s head was in the game Sunday at Cincinnati. It almost was if he was afraid Vontaze Burfict and the Bengals would take off his head with a wicked shot.

“Major threats,” Smith-Schuster said later when asked what terrorizing words Burfict had for him in the game.

“There were threats, left and right,” Ben Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger told of Burfict pointing at Smith-Schuster the next play after Burfict temporarily knocked out Antonio Brown with a cheap elbow to the head and saying, “You’re next.”

It all went back to the Steelers-Bengals game in December at Paul Brown Stadium when Smith-Schuster gave Burfict a concussion with a hard block and then stood over him and taunted him, earning a one-game suspension from the NFL.

Can you blame Smith-Schuster if he was a little bit intimidated?

“I knew he would be fine,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ve got trust and faith in him. I know who he is and what he is.”

That didn’t stop Roethlisberger from seeking out Smith-Schuster for a brief sideline conversation after that second failed pass.

“I tried to talk to him, just little stuff like, ‘You’re OK. You’re fine,’” Roethlisberger said. “He gave me kind of a short answer and started to walk away. It wasn’t a big deal, but I kind of got on him. I think it was more frustration on his part than anything else. He came back to me a few minutes later, on his own, and said, ‘I got you, my bad, da da da.’ To me, that speaks volumes of who he is. ‘I’m coming to you,’ I told him. He made plays. He gets mad when he doesn’t make them. He wants to make every play.”

Mark Madden: NFL players try to talk themselves into anything

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

After their Cincinnati team lost 28-21 to the Steelers on Sunday, Dre Kirkpatrick and Tyler Boyd insisted the Bengals are better than the Steelers.

They would have a difficult time arguing that case in court. The Steelers have beaten the Bengals seven straight times and 18 of 21 games played at Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium.

But words are disposable, even more so in sports.

Consider blabbermouth Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville’s All-Pro cornerback. Before the season, Ramsey lambasted a host of NFL quarterbacks. He called Buffalo’s Josh Allen “trash,” Atlanta’s Matt Ryan “overrated,” the Los Angeles RamsJared Goff “average to above average,” Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck “not that good” and Ben Roethlisberger “decent at best.”

Ramsey also said he could play in the NHL if he skated for six months. What a dope.

Most of what Ramsey said is silly, but it starts conversation. (This is the business I’ve chosen.) Since we moan when athletes ladle out clichés, speak blandly or don’t comment at all, we’re told we should be happy when they spew nonsense under the heading of “honesty.” (I am, believe me.) Ramsey just talks and talks.

But what happens when Ramsey plays like “trash” — well, “decent at best” — and his team turns out to be “overrated”?

That looks like the case in Jacksonville. The Jaguars were picked by many to win the AFC South. But they’re 3-3 and got blown out by Dallas, 40-7, on Sunday.

Jacksonville was supposed to have the NFL’s best defense, and the Jaguars do rank No. 2 yardage-wise. But they stand 24th in scoring defense. That’s a bit inconvenient when games are decided by points, not yards, but certainly inevitable when you’ve allowed 70 points in the last two games (both losses).

It would be interesting to hear what Ramsey has to say about this two-week implosion, but we didn’t. When confronted by media after the rout at the hands of Dallas, Ramsey’s face went blank and he gave brief, inconsequential answers.

If Ramsey is going to run his big yapper and belittle others by way of self-promotion and chest-thumping, he owes an explanation when he and his teammates stink. But none was forthcoming. Ramsey is the worst kind of blowhard and phony.

I wonder what Allen, Ryan, Goff, Luck and Roethlisberger think now that Ramsey’s Jaguars look like they’re “not that good”?

Steelers’ improved defense among 5 things that stood out in win over Bengals

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Five things we learned from Steelers 28, Bengals 21:

1. The defense is starting to find its way

Had the game ended with 3 minutes, 32 seconds remaining and the Pittsburgh Steelers leading by 20-14, much of the postgame talk would have centered around the performance of the defense. To that point, the Cincinnati Bengals had 187 net yards, including 35 in the second half.

Then, Andy Dalton led the Bengals on a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that put the Steelers in a 21-20 hole with 1:18 remaining. This, of course, set the stage for Ben Roethlisberger’s 31-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown with 10 seconds remaining.

The Bengals would finish with 275 total yards, which easily was the fewest allowed by the Steelers this season. And, for the second game in a row, the Steelers held an opponent to 62 yards rushing.

Another encouraging sign was that Stephon Tuitt got his first sack of the season. Javon Hargrave and Vince Williams got the others. The secondary yielded one pass longer than 20 yards – and it went for only 23.

All in all, it was an encouraging sign for a defense that struggled mightily in September.

2. JuJu Smith-Schuster’s best grab wasn’t on a pass

The second-year wide receiver overcame two early drops to lead the Steelers with 111 receiving yards on seven catches. He had an acrobatic catch at the Bengals 1, and his 23-yard catch set up the game winner, but it was his fumble recovery in the fourth quarter that helped establish a six-point lead.

With the Steelers leading 17-14 and facing a third-and-2 at the Cincinnati 6, Roethlisberger flicked a pass at the line of scrimmage to tight end Vance McDonald. The ball became dislodged, but Smith-Schuster pounced on it at the 6. Chris Boswell’s second field goal of the game hiked the lead to 20-14.

Had the Bengals recovered the fumble with 3:35 left, the strategy in the waning moments might have changed drastically. Perhaps the Bengals don’t drive down the field with such urgency since the deficit is now three points, not six. And maybe the Bengals, after scoring their touchdown, play it safer on defense in the final minute, knowing the Steelers – now trailing by four points instead of one – need to go the length of the field to win it. Maybe there is no zero-coverage defense for Roethlisberger to exploit on his toss to Brown that went for a 31-yard score.

Smith-Schuster’s fumble recovery rendered all of the hypotheticals moot.

3. Roethlisberger kept his uniform clean

For the second game in a row, the offensive line kept Roethlisberger off his back side. The Bengals, like the Atlanta Falcons a week prior, didn’t record a sack on the Steelers quarterback.

Roethlisberger was hit just one time in the 46 times he dropped back to pass as the offensive line contained the Bengals’ pass-rushing duo of Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.

The line also paved the way for James Conner to rush for 111 yards on 19 carries, a 5.8 average that represented a season high for the second-year running back.

4. Holding calls were worth snapping about

The long snapper is the most anonymous player on a team – at least until a snap goes awry and costs his team valuable points.

It wasn’t that bad for second-year long snapper Kam Canaday. Boswell made all four of his kicks (two field goals, two extra points). Still, Canaday was called twice for holding after Jordan Berry punts pinned the Bengals deep in their end.

The first infraction came after the opening series of the game. Berry’s 32-yard punt resulted in a fair catch at the 12. Canaday’s hold, however, gave the Bengals possession at the 22.

The second holding call against Canaday came late in the third quarter after a 35-yard punt and gave Bengals the ball at their 20 instead of the 10. Thankfully for the Steelers, neither of the penalties led to points for Cincinnati.

5. Dirty play was kept to a minimum

Smith-Schuster called the game the most physical one he has ever played, yet this one didn’t have a typical Steelers-Bengals feel to it.

Save for Vontaze Burfict’s shoulder shot to the back of Brown’s neck in the third quarter, the game was free of controversial hits that have defined the series in recent seasons. Not one personal foul was called on either team.

The most egregious foul called against the Bengals was a block above the waist on special teams. For the Steelers, Artie Burns was flagged for 14 yards on pass interference.