The Pittsburgh Steelers traded away wide receiver Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders back in March and when that deal finally was consummated, it probably surprised wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster because he said early in the offseason that he thought his teammate would be back in 2019. With Brown now officially no longer in Pittsburgh, Smith-Schuster is now expected to take over the number-one receiver spot. While in London on Tuesday to serve as an ambassador for the new NFL Academy, Smith-Schuster was asked to comment on how the news of the Steelers trading away of Brown initially impacted him when he first heard it and did the move in any way impact his thought process going into this season.
“I mean, it was kind of like mind blowing,” Smith-Schuster said. “You know, you would think like the Steelers would never, you know, release that situation. And at that point, you know, it’s like God opened up another door for me to take another opportunity to be the number one guy. And I’m super happy, I’m super proud. And it’s not just me, but you know guys like Donte Moncrief, you know, James Washington, James Corner, you know, Vance McDonald, we have so many guys on our offense that are weapons that you know, with those other hundred catches and the other thousand yards [that Brown had last year], we can spread that all around.”
It certainly will be interesting to see just how much spreading around of the football there is in the Steelers offense in 2019. As smith Schuster indicated yet again on Tuesday, the team has several capable weapons on offense in wide receivers Donte Moncrief, James Washington, and rookie Diontae Johnson. Additionally, there’s a good chance that Ryan Switzer and Eli Rogers both make the 53-man roster this year. Those are just the wide receivers, however, as tight end Vance McDonald and running backs James Conner and Jaylen Samuels should all be able to handle a few more targets in 2019. Additionally, hopefully quarterback Ben Roethlisberger won’t have to throw nearly as much as he did last season.
Smith-Schuster was also asked Tuesday about last year’s drama-filled season and with that all seemingly now behind the team if he believes the Steelers have a chance to not only get back into the playoffs this season, but win the Super Bowl as well.
“Most definitely,” Smith-Schuster said. “Like I said, the guys that we have, like I said, there’s no drama in our locker room. In our AFC, we’re not like the head team, everyone’s talking about the Browns. You know that kinda gets pressure off of us because now we’re kind of like the underdogs. But then again, you know, there’s no focus on us. Now we just just play ball and now we just focus on game by game, week by week. And yes, I think we have a huge, huge opportunity to make the playoffs and make a big impact.”
Smith-Schuster is right about the Steelers seemingly being underdogs this upcoming season as quite a few NFL analysts and fans believe that the Cleveland Browns are destined to win the AFC North in 2019 with the Baltimore Ravens battling with Pittsburgh for second place. As for there not being any drama in the Steelers locker room right now, it certainly seems like that’s the case right now. Outside of a few minor Twitter faux pas early during the team’s OTA sessions, the Steelers have had a very quiet last several weeks. If that can continue and if the offense can show that they can overcome the offseason loss of Bell, thers no reason to think that the Steelers can’t win the AFC North this season and ultimately make a legitimate run at a seventh Lombardi Trophy.