Madden Monday: Steelers will give JuJu Smith-Schuster what he wants and play him outside more often; Penguins vs. Isles fallout

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Jun. 14—Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster keeps talking about his desire to play outside more often this year.

That may not be a great idea. Smith-Schuster is good in the slot, and if bouncing outside takes away snaps from Chase Claypool or potentially Diontae Johnson, that doesn't sound like a good thing.

Yet this is what Smith-Schuster wants because clearly teams in free agency were turned off by his low yards-per-catch average. Which is partially why he had to come back to Pittsburgh on a one-year deal.

In this week's "Madden Monday" podcast, Mark Madden of TribLive and "105.9 The X" predicts Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will acquiesce to Smith-Schuster's desire.

"If you want to win football games, you put him in the slot. Because that's what he is best at," Madden said. "But it isn't going to get him the big money. And don't he know it! Because it didn't.

"But I bet he lines up on the outside more than either of us think he should. Because it is more important that the players don't know unpleasant moments than it is for the Steelers to win. That has been Mike Tomlin's coaching methodology for a number of years now."

We also discussed the Penguins and how to contextualize this year's early postseason exit.

When they lost to the Washington Capitals in the second round of the 2018 playoffs, it eventually became easy to rationalize.

The franchise had won two straight Stanley Cups, and it lost in six tough games to a Caps team that — for a long time comin' — appeared to be a worthy Cup champion. That year it eventually happened.

Hey, sometimes you just lose to a better team. Que sera sera.

In the next two years, the first-round defeats to the New York Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens were a bit tougher to justify. After all, the Islanders were swept by the Carolina Hurricanes after they swept the Penguins in 2019. And the 2020 Canadiens lost in six games to the Philadelphia Flyers after dusting the Penguins in four games of the qualifying round.

Is 2021 different if this edition of the Islanders manages to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in the semifinals? After all, the Isles already surprised the Boston Bruins in the second round after upsetting the Pens in Round 1. And if they make it to the Stanley Cup Final, maybe we should lighten up on the angst we seem to feel about how the Pens lost to New York.

Not so, says Madden.

"I don't think it mollifies any of the concerns or complaints of Penguins fans," Madden said. "Because the Islanders didn't beat the Penguins in the first round as a standalone. It's still the third straight first-round exit. Twice at the hand of the Islanders, admittedly. But, no, this wouldn't make me feel better about the Penguins at all, even if the Islanders win the Stanley Cup. If your championship window is open, you should be able to beat anybody."

Also in the podcast, Mark shares his thoughts on Mike Sullivan and Sidney Crosby being left out of some postseason awards. He goes off on Devin Bush for claiming he could cover Jarvis Landry one-on-one. We mock the Pirates and talk about Mark's looming concert venture in Texas.

Listen: Tim Benz and Mark Madden discuss JuJu Smith-Schuster's desire to play outside and how the Steelers will handle that, and Penguins' early exit from the postseason

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.