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Steelers News: JuJu Smith-Schuster preparing for No. 1 wide receiver role, just in case

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

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how JuJu Smith-Schuster spoke at Pro Bowl practices about a lot of stuff, but mainly about how although he wants Antonio Brown back in the fold in 2019, he is preparing to be the Steelers’ No. 1 wide receiver — if needed.

Let’s get to the news:

JuJu Smith-Schuster ready for No. 1 role with Steelers if needed

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

JuJu Smith-Schuster has made clear he doesn’t want Antonio Brown traded. Brown makes the Steelers better, he says.

But if the team disagrees and trades Brown, it’s no secret where Smith-Schuster is headed -- to the very top of the Steelers’ receiver depth chart as Ben Roethlisberger’s top option.

Embracing such a chance is the reason why Smith-Schuster is at the Pro Bowl after a team-high 111 catches for 1,426 yards.

”It’s a responsibility every receiver loves to have,” Smith-Schuster said about the possibility after Wednesday’s Pro Bowl practice.

Brown’s absence in Week 17 showed life without him isn’t always easy. The Steelers beat the Bengals 16-13 but failed to score on their first four drives. But Smith-Schuster found the end zone that day and proved the Steelers’ most consistent weapon on the way to a team Most Valuable Player award, as voted on by teammates.

With Smith-Schuster as the No. 1, the Steelers would need James Washington to build on his late-season success. Washington struggled with confidence issues as a rookie, but teammates see the immense talent, which led to 60-plus-yard-games in two of the last three weeks.

Tight end Vance McDonald figures to enhance his role, too.

”Those defenses would change versus me [in that case],” Smith-Schuster said. “Obviously somebody else would have to step up.”

Smith-Schuster isn’t worried about that -- or Brown’s business -- right now. Smith-Schuster said he has reached out to Brown and hasn’t heard back but isn’t worried. Players are on vacation and contact is minimal. Smith-Schuster “no doubt” expects to talk with Brown sometime soon.

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

VIDEO: JuJu Smith-Schuster talks about Antonio Brown’s frustration

To watch video, click HERE.

Tim Benz: Are Steelers players trying to defuse the Antonio Brown drama?

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

It sure sounds like the Steelers players are trying to thaw the cold war between the organization and wide receiver Antonio Brown.

JuJu Smith-Schuster endorsed the idea of Brown staying in Pittsburgh. And during a conference call with season-ticket holders, Art Rooney II seemed to walk back his previous pessimism that something could be worked out.

When it comes to the players, I’m not putting as much stock in these quotes as other people are.

The players saying that they want A.B. back doesn’t mean they are OK with the distractions he created and his absence at the end of the season. It means they want a dynamic player to keep wearing their team’s uniform.

Loosely translated, I think those statements mean they want Brown in Pittsburgh if he wants to be in Pittsburgh. But they want him to be invested and a good soldier.

For a team that is hopefully trying to tamp down a series of chaotic headlines coming out of its locker room, it’s a lot easier for them to say, “gee, I hope it works out,” as opposed to “trade him.”

Because if the Steelers don’t do that, and keep him, then what? Well, the locker room becomes even more of a circus.

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

Art Rooney II wants more consistency in protecting quarterbacks

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

On the heels of a controversial call in the AFC championship game, Art Rooney II said it’s time for the NFL to re-examine the standards of roughing-the-passer penalties.

The Pittsburgh Steelers president said Wednesday that NFL officials need to be “very consistent” in calling penalties on hits against quarterbacks.

Rooney addressed the issue on a conference call with fans Wednesday, three days after the New England Patriots benefited from a roughing-the-passer call that gave them a first down on an eventual touchdown drive. A flag was thrown after Kansas City Chiefs player Chris Jones hit Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on his shoulder with his hand as the pass was being released. Given a first down, the Patriots scored a touchdown that gave them a 24-21 lead en route to a 37-31 overtime win.

In the third quarter, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes didn’t benefit from a similar hit by Patriots player Trey Flowers. No flag was thrown on the play.

“We are just heading into the period where rules changes are being discussed and being considered,” Rooney said in the 20-minute chat. “One of them is we always look at trying to protect the quarterback. There was a bit of controversy on calls to protect the quarterback, and that’s something we have to look at and make sure officiating is very consistent on it.

“Whether or not we have a rule change, there is work to be done to make sure we have consistency in that area.”

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is a member of the NFL competition committee, which is responsible for adopting rules changes that team owners then vote on at their annual meetings in late March.

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)