First Call: Steelers still in mix for JuJu Smith-Schuster; Browns pushing for Deshaun Watson; Bryan Reynolds trade talk

Monday’s “First Call” has some possible destinations for Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. If quarterback Deshaun Watson doesn’t come to Pittsburgh, he may wind up elsewhere in the AFC North.

An ex-Penguins star is part of a milestone. Former Penn State basketball coach Pat Chambers has a new job.

Plus, how much should we believe the Bryan Reynolds trade talk?

Deshaun to the Dawg Pound?

Now that a grand jury refused to indict Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson on criminal charges, the trade market has picked up for him.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Pro Football Network, the Steelers are not involved. Goal an AFC North rival is.

“The Cleveland Browns have been aggressive about Watson and are ‘incredibly interested’ and have emerged as a wild-card entry in pursuing the Georgia native. The Browns are among up to 10 teams that have been actively monitoring the situation,” Wilson said. “The Browns have Baker Mayfield installed as their starting QB, but Watson is obviously better.”

VSiN’s Shaun King reported last week that he had been told Watson was likely destined for the Steelers if he avoided indictment. But Wilson disputed that claim, saying, “Contrary to reports, (the Steelers) are not and have not been involved in the Watson sweepstakes, according to a source.”

Wilson listed the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints as other teams pursuing trade options for Watson.

Per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Watson wants to meet with teams who are interested before waiving his no-trade clause. Rapoport claims the Saints and Panthers have already made offers.

Where to, JuJu?

Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is about to become a free agent for a second straight year, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com isn’t ruling out a second straight return to Pittsburgh.

“JuJu Smith-Schuster will have options this week, starting with a potential re-signing with Pittsburgh,” Fowler posted Sunday morning. “The Eagles, Chiefs, Bears and Jaguars also could be involved come Monday’s tampering period, I’m told.”

Fowler added that the Las Vegas Raiders and New England Patriots — two other teams linked to Smith-Schuster since the 2021 season ended — have shown more interest in Jacksonville’s DJ Chark Jr.

Don’t hold your breath

Now that we know Major League Baseball is going to be played in 2022, we can focus on which players the Pirates will sell off so that they can (clears throat) “build for the future.”

One such player — who, frankly, should be part of any present or “future” plans for the Pirates — is outfielder Bryan Reynolds.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Reynolds is “drawing trade interest” from the San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins. But Rosenthal added, “The chances he actually will be moved remain slim. Reynolds, 27, is projected to earn more than $4.5 million in arbitration this season, and after that still will be under team control for three more years.”

Reynolds made the All-Star Game last year, posting a .302 batting average, a .912 OPS, 24 homers, 90 RBIs and 93 runs scored in 159 games.


• Tim Benz: Penguins-Hurricanes regular season battles did little to reveal clues for a potential playoff showdown
• Madden Monday: What Tom Brady’s return means for the Steelers

three of a kind

Former Penguin Jordan Staal is now part of some unique history.

His brother, Marc, played in game No. 1,000 of his NHL career Saturday night for the Detroit Red Wings against the Calgary Flames. The first 892 games of his career were in a New York Rangers uniform.

Jordan, Marc and their oldest brother, Eric, all have at least 1,000 games under their belts now. They are the first trio of brothers to reach that plateau.

A fourth Staal brother, Jared, appeared in two games for the Hurricanes during the 2012-13 season.

Pat is back

Via CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein, former Penn State Nittany Lions basketball coach Pat Chambers is getting a new head coaching job. He’ll be taking over at Florida Gulf Coast.

Chambers posted a 148-150 regular season record during his nine years in State College. The Nittany Lions were 2018 NIT champions and had a 21-10 record when coronavirus halted the 2020 season.

Chambers stepped down as Penn State’s head coach in October 2020 after allegations of misconduct. Former Nittany Lion Rasir Bolton alleged that Chambers used the phrase “loosen the noose around [your] neck,” causing him to transfer from the program.

Chambers spent the past season as an assistant on Ashley Howard’s staff at La Salle. He’ll replace Michael Fly who was fired after going 21-11 this season. But Fly was 55-59 in his four years in Fort Myers.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.