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Steelers News: How JuJu Smith-Schuster is more than ready to shoulder the load at WR

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

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders Neville E. Guard-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 despite all the talk being about Antonio Brown’s exploits, JuJu Smith-Schuster is doing nothing but showing he is more than ready to be a No. 1 next year, and for years to come.

Let’s get to the news:

Carter’s Classroom: Why JuJu’s more than ready

By: Chris Carter, DKPittsburghSports

The never-ending news on Antonio Brown won’t stop even when the Steelers have eventually dealt him to another team. But the looming question that comes with his pending departure is whether 22-year-old JuJu Smith-Schuster is ready to take his place as the Steelers’ No. 1 receiver.

Brown does so many things right with his game that it seems nobody, let alone a player coming off his second season, could come close to replacing him. But Smith-Schuster is a lot further along than many might believe.

Before we get into the reasons why Smith-Schuster is ready, I’m going to address the most common counter-argument to the notion that he could be the Number 1 receiver: Brown was so good at his job that he opened up opportunities for Smith-Schuster, and is also partly responsible for his success.

First, this argument is true. Brown regularly drew double-and-triple-teams from defenses that opened up the field for other playmakers. But saying this without acknowledging Smith-Schuster taking advantage of those opportunities skips a major point.

A perfect example would be the Steelers’ longest play of the season, and what tied for the longest passing play in team history. Smith-Schuster’s 99-yard touchdown reception from Ben Roethlisberger against the Broncos was the perfect mix of a defense doubling Brown and Smith-Schuster showing all the right moves.

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

Hicks, Smith could fill needs for Steelers

By: Dale Lolley, DKPittsburghSports

It’s no secret what the Steelers’ biggest need is heading into this offseason.

Team president Art Rooney II made that obvious a few weeks ago when he met with reporters.

“The linebacker position is something I feel like we still need to address. So, it’s a challenge, no doubt about it,” Rooney said.

Rooney was talking about the position as a whole, which he should since top backup outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo is an unrestricted free agent and the team would like to work out a deal with Bud Dupree to lower his $9.2-million salary cap hit for 2019. If it can’t work out a long-term deal with Dupree or get him to accept a lesser contract, he could be released, meaning the only two remaining outside linebackers on the roster with experience would be T.J. Watt and little-used Ola Adeniyi.

More importantly, though, the Steelers need to upgrade their inside linebacker position, where Vince Williams and 2018 free agent acquisition Jon Bostic were the starters, while L.J. Fort also saw a good amount of playing time.

Bostic was brought in to help try and replace Ryan Shazier, and while he had 73 tackles and 2.5 sacks, he proved to be less than what the team needed in terms of a coverage linebacker. In fact, after the team’s 24-17 loss in Denver in Week 11, Bostic played less than 25 percent of the defensive snaps the remainder of the season.

He lost some of those to Fort, who is more athletic and better in coverage. But the 29-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020 and the Steelers would like a younger, better replacement who could be the starter and push Bostic into a backup role befitting his $2.5 million salary cap hit.

The Steelers could wait for the draft to fill their hole at inside linebacker, or they could play it safe and make sure they get an upgrade after getting shut out on the top four prospects at the position in last year’s draft. And if they do wind up having to release Dupree, they likely would then add a veteran replacement in free agency.

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

Is there logic to speculation about Le’Veon Bell going to Ravens?

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Mike Garofolo of the NFL Network is the latest football analyst to opine that Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell may go to the Baltimore Ravens.

This conversation was touched off when Bell publicly flirted with Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson on social media in the wake of a previous NFL Network report. It suggested that Baltimore would be a great landing spot if he finally does divorce from the Steelers.

The idea of Le’Veon Bell in Purple and Black is intriguing on many levels.

First of all, there’s the practical angle.

The Ravens were the second-best rushing team in football with the combination of Gus Edwards, Alex Collins, Javorius Allen and Kenneth Dixon.

Jackson’s 695 rushing yards from the quarterback position didn’t hurt, either.

So, on the surface, why would they need Bell on a big-ticket salary?

Well, consider that aside from Allen, none of the other backs were at all impactful in the passing game. That’s part of the reason Baltimore acquired Ty Montgomery from Green Bay last year. Yet he wound up with only 10 receptions for 65 yards.

That’s where Bell would really come into play. He could take some of Lamar Jackson’s short passes and turn them into long gains. Jackson could really use that safety net in his development. Ben Roethlisberger is five times as polished as Jackson, and look at how much Bell helped Big Ben over the years.

Also, offensive coordinator Greg Roman has worked with top-of-the-line runners such as Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy in the past.

Secondly — beyond X’s-and-O’s — the Ravens could enjoy the glorious intangible of putting the screws to the Steelers, along with never having to face Bell again.

No team has allowed more yards rushing, receptions or touchdowns to Bell than the Ravens have. Now he could be one of their own, going up against the Steelers’ weak defense twice a year in divisional play.

Imagine the Steelers stealing Jamal Lewis in the prime of his career. This would be the rough equivalent.

After the trade of Joe Flacco becomes official, the Ravens will have $32 million of cap space. Spending big in free agency wasn’t Baltimore’s style under former general manager Ozzie Newsome for many years.

They’ve gotten more aggressive in recent seasons. But now Eric DeCosta has taken over for Newsome and, in his words, spending in free agency can be a “dicey proposition.”

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