On Tuesday Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster appeared on the second episode of All Things Covered, a new podcast co-hosted by former Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden and veteran Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Asked about former USC college teammate Sam Darnold—the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and current starting quarterback of the New York Jets—Smith-Schuster said he “wouldn’t mind playing with him again.”
To be sure, Smith-Schuster was speaking about acquiring Darnold, 23, via trade (or via free agency) when Ben Roethlisberger’s career is over.
“Sam Darnold, if we could get him to Pittsburgh, I would, but I love Ben so it is what it is,” said Smith-Schuster. “I’m just saying he’s a great kid. I played with him so he’s one of my boys so I wouldn’t mind playing with [Darnold] again.”
Sam Darnold to the Pittsburgh Steelers?
As for the prospect of Darnold ever playing for the Steelers, well, he has had precious little success with the Jets, though he is surrounded by decidedly subpar talent, including a dearth of talent at wide receiver and a declining running back in former Steeler Le’Veon Bell.
Darnold is just 11-18 as a starter, including 0-3 this year, with a career completion rate of 60 percent. He has thrown just 39 touchdown passes against 32 interceptions for a career passer rating of 80.0.
It’s conceivable, though, that Darnold could become available as soon as next season, as the Jets are in contention for the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, which would afford them the chance to draft a generational quarterback prospect in the form of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
JuJu Smith-Schuster to the New York Jets?
A more likely scenario would be JuJu Smith-Schuster leaving Pittsburgh for New York in free agency after the 2020 season. The Jets are in crying need of talented wide receivers and have the money to pay Smith-Schuster what he’ll be looking for in a second NFL contract. Moreover, Darnold and Smith-Schuster had success together in college, which augurs well for their future together. No doubt the marketing- and social media-savvy Smith-Schuster would also enjoy being in the Big Apple, with all the promotional opportunities that might present.
It’s even theoretically possible that the Steelers would trade Smith-Schuster to the Jets prior to the trade deadline, knowing how unlikely it is that he’ll be re-signing with Pittsburgh for 2021 and beyond, in part because of Pittsburgh’s impending salary cap hell. The Jets have the draft capital to pull off such a trade, which would require New York to part with a second-round pick at the very least—and probably more—as the Steelers know they would likely receive a third-round compensatory pick in 2022 if Smith-Schuster leaves in free agency.
For what it’s worth, JuJu Smith-Schuster caught 70 passes for 914 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016, when he was teammates with Sam Darnold at USC.
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