Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was voted the team’s MVP last season after registering 111 receptions for 1,426 yards and 7 touchdowns in just his second year in the NFL. So, can Smith-Schuster win the annual team award again in 2019? Dan Hanzus of NFL.com certainly likes his chances of doing just that.
In a Tuesday post on NFL.com, Hanzus attempted to predict which player would ultimately be the MVP of every AFC team in 2019 and picked Smith-Schuster to win the Steelers annual award after also predicting that two former Steelers players, running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown, will both be the 2019 MVPs of their new respective teams, the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders.
Hanzus writes of his Smith-Schuster selection:
How cute is this? AB and JuJu, two teammates-turned-social-media foes, sitting right next to each other in this post on account of alphabetical order. Smith-Schuster will undoubtedly see his targets tick upward with Brown now 3,000 miles away. I predict a particular spike in red-zone production. Could Brown and JuJu end up as first-team All-Pros together? Not a crazy thought at all. Note: I would have gone with Ben Roethlisberger here, but poor Big Ben has one team MVP trophy to show for 15 years of consistent greatness. Betcha AB has theories.
Obviously, Hanzus didn’t go too far out on a limb with his prediction of Smith-Schuster potentially being the Steelers 2019 MVP. In fact, had he not picked Smith-Schuster, his only other practical choices would have likely been quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back James Conner, defensive lineman Cameron Heyward or outside linebacker T.J. Watt.
The last time that a Steelers defensive player has been voted team MVP by his peers was way back in 2010 when safety Troy Polamalu won the award. And prior to that, outside linebacker James Harrison won the award in back-to-back seasons in 2007 and 2008. Harrison, by the way, is the last Steelers player to win the Steelers team MVP award in consecutive years.
Back to Smith-Schuster’s chances of repeating as the Steelers team MVP award in 2019, he certainly has his work cut out for him as he’ll now be expected to be the No. 1 wide receiver on offense now that Brown has been traded away. That distinction will come with a lot more attention from opposing defenses looking to take him away as much as possible and thus force the Steelers offense to beat them with other players.
Hines Ward, by the way, was the last Steelers wide receiver to win back-to-back team MVP awards as he did it in 2002 and 2003. Ward, however, did share the team MVP award in 2002 with outside linebacker Joey Porter.
Below are just a few of the great catches that Smith-Schuster made during the 2018 season.