Take 5: Football Drama, who should stay and who should go



Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) reacts after a second half touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Steelers won, 20-17. (Sam Riche/TNS)

By Staff

College football may be over and the Steelers’ season may have come to an end, but that doesn’t mean the drama will stop. This week our writers took at look at various NFL and college teams, saying what moves they think they will make to be top contenders next year.

JuJu is great for the NFL

Almost two years ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers surprised many people by drafting a 20-year-old wide receiver named JuJu Smith-Schuster out of USC. Smith-Schuster was a tremendous college player at the University of Southern California, but he was young, and Pittsburgh was then home to the best receiver in the league — Antonio Brown.

Now, reflecting at the end of his second season, it’s clear the Steelers made the right call. JuJu has recorded 169 catches, more than 2,300 yards and 14 touchdowns since being drafted in 2017. Brown’s future with the team, on the other hand, hangs in the balance due to numerous missed practices, constant erratic behavior and an apparent fallout with both coach Mike Tomlin and Big Ben.

JuJu is more than just a talented football player, though. He’s a happy-go-lucky kid who simply loves the life he’s living. He’s immensely popular, gaining his 3 million combined Twitter and Instagram followers by being himself. His viral Fortnite game against online gaming superstar Ninja and rappers Drake and Travis Scott helped, too.

Professional sports are often as much about the off-the-field product as they are the quality of the games themselves, particularly in this day and age. The NFL could use some marketability, especially considering the ratings have declined in recent years. Players like JuJu bring an awareness and excitement to the league through social media and can help repair the image of an increasingly tense league.

-Nick Carlisano

Cardinals will need to show patience with Kingsbury

On Tuesday, the Arizona Cardinals became the next team to hire a young, offensive-minded head coach to lead their organization when they announced Kliff Kingsbury as its new coach. Fans and analysts will likely question Kingsbury’s readiness for an NFL head coaching position, given his rocky record as the head coach at Texas Tech over the past six seasons, posting a 35-40 record overall.

But the NFL is a copycat league and the quickest turnarounds in recent history have come at the hands of coaches much like Kingsbury, in terms of offensive thinking. The best example of this is the Cardinals’ NFC West rival, the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams’ head coach Sean McVay took a 4-12 team to consecutive playoff appearances in his first two seasons at the helm.

With a roster that lacks a plethora of talent and a young quarterback in Josh Rosen, who certainly has tools but needs improvement to take the next step at the pro level, the Cardinals shouldn’t expect a rapid turnaround from Kingsbury.

If Arizona wants the Kingsbury experiment to work, the young coach will need to find a strong defensive coordinator and make Rosen’s development his primary mission. If the Cardinals’ front office is not patient enough to trust the process and ride out the bumps of Kingsbury’s tenure early on, he could end up with a fate very similar to that of his predecessor, who lasted just one season.

-Andrew Kelly

Fields of Dreams

Former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields announced last Friday he will transfer to Ohio State for the 2019 season. Fields was the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2018 recruiting class and was benched in favor of the talented sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm.

Fields left Georgia after realizing the inevitable — Fromm would be the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback next season. So Fields began looking for greener pastures in Columbus.

The move to Ohio State raises vital questions for the team moving forward, such as whether Fields will return as the starting quarterback next season or be replaced by Tate Martell or Matthew Baldwin.

Baldwin doesn’t really stand a chance to start, so the battle will most likely be between Fields and Martell. Fields is easily the better player, but Martell has been in the system longer and is well-versed in the Buckeye culture.

It will be interesting to see how this battle plays out leading up to next season and to find out who new head coach Ryan Day will choose to be the main man under center. In the end, fans can expect Day to ultimately go with Fields, who very well could take the Buckeyes to the playoffs next season.

-Tyler Moran

AB drama irrelevant

The Pittsburgh Steelers faced an epic collapse this season, riddled with drama. From Le’Veon Bell’s holdout to Ben Roethlisberger publicly calling out his teammates, the Steelers just could not keep their names out of the headlines.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t escape Week 17 without a little extra drama. Antonio Brown skipped practices and didn’t return calls from the team and front office. Coach Mike Tomlin benched Brown for the last game of the season and the media circled the team like vultures.

Many big-name football reporters like Adam Schefter and Ian Rapoport have speculated the Steelers would trade Brown for his antics in Week 17 and smaller issues throughout the year.

Quite frankly, this is an absurd idea to entertain. Brown is arguably the best wide receiver in the league and his chemistry with Roethlisberger makes them an all-time duo.

Pittsburgh is in win-now mode — Roethlisberger is 36 and the Steelers need to capitalize on his golden years before he succumbs to Father Time. Trading Big Ben’s favorite target and the best playmaker on the team away hurts the team’s chances of hanging with the best next year. Tomlin needs to figure out a way to squash the beef because the Steelers and Brown share a special relationship.

-Sami Abu-Obaid

Tua Big of a Stage?

After bursting onto the scene in last year’s National Championship game in which he led Alabama to a comeback victory over SEC rival Georgia, it became obvious that then-first-year Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was destined for greatness.

It’s common knowledge in the college football world just how good Alabama’s sophomore quarterback Tagovailoa is. In his first full season as a starter, Tagovailoa finished with 3,966 yards, 43 touchdowns and six interceptions en route to leading the Crimson Tide to a 14-1 record.

But Tagovailoa may not be as made for the big moment as we may have thought. In two of his most important games as a starter, Tagovailoa has played some sloppy football.

In the SEC Championship against Georgia, Tagovailoa had a pedestrian 164 yards to go along with one touchdown and two interceptions, while only completing 10 of 25 passes before ultimately being bailed out by the former starting quarterback, senior Jalen Hurts.

Against Clemson in the National Championship game Monday, Tagovailoa completed 22 out of 34 pass attempts to tally 295 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in what was a 44-16 loss.

With one year left before becoming eligible for the NFL Draft, Tagovailoa still has plenty left to prove.

-Michael Nitti