New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick wasn’t blowing smoke when he talked up Pittsburgh Steelers second-year wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in advance of Sunday’s game between the two teams. The great head coach clearly legitimately respects the 22-year-old’s game and what he has been able to accomplish during the first two seasons of his career.
Having already recorded a 1000-yard season, he is working on 100 receptions next. After Sunday’s game, a low point in which he had just four receptions for 40 yards, admittedly, in a quiet second half, Smith-Schuster is now sitting on 95 catches on the season for 1274 yards and six touchdowns. The former two marks are easily career-highs, but he needs one more to match his seven receiving touchdowns from a season ago.
Referring to him and Antonio Brown as a pair, Belichick said in the week leading up to the game that “you’re not going to get anybody better than these two guys” adding that they are not just “elite” but “elite elite”.
The Hoodie even reached out to Smith-Schuster after the game to compliment him during an awkward embrace. The wide receiver Tweeted that it was “crazy to have Coach Belichick, a legendary coach I’ve watched my whole life come up to me after the game and tell me he respects my game and how I play”.
He wouldn’t be the first receiver the Patriots head coach has set his eye one. The team signed then-restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet worth $2.5 million for one year back in 2013, but the Steelers chose to match the offer at the time. New England would have had to give up a third-round pick had Pittsburgh not accepted.
Is Belichick envisioning seeing Smith-Schuster in a Patriots uniform a few years from now? In many ways he does seem like exactly the kind of player he would want to bring in. In spite of his very obvious youthfulness, he is completely no nonsense on the field and knows what he’s doing, and has shown the willingness to do the dirty work as well as the ability to make the big plays in the big moments.
It’s too far into the future to try to say what will happen a couple of years from now, but I’d certainly like to think that the Steelers would not let Smith-Schuster go to another team. By the time his rookie contract expires in 2020, Brown will be going into his age 33 season, for one thing. And his contract would also be due for an extension.