First Call: T.J. Watt on Bud Dupree’s departure; JuJu Smith-Schuster tells Steelers players he’s gone; Philly for Mike Hilton?

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Steelers free-agency headlines dominate Tuesday’s “First Call.”

It sounds like JuJu Smith-Schuster is halfway out the door. T.J. Watt bids adieu to Bud Dupree. Teams are eyeing up Mike Hilton.

And there’s plenty of news surrounding the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals, too.


See ya’ around

Where wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has decided to play football over the next few years is still uncertain.

But it is becoming abundantly clear it won’t be in Pittsburgh. The soon-to-be free agent is already telling teammates he’ll be leaving.

That’s according to the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, who claims that Smith-Schuster’s flirtations with the open market last Thursday were real.

“He is also telling teammates that he is likely to head elsewhere for the next portion of his career. So it doesn’t look like JuJu Smith-Schuster will be back in Pittsburgh,” Garafolo said.

How do you think JuJu broke the news? Text? Group email? Like … in person, or an actual phone call??!!

No!

Seems a little conventional to me. I assumed he’d stream individual goodbyes on Twitch or Instagram. Maybe film himself doing an interpretive dance on the logo of his new team or something.

Wouldn’t that be more “on brand” for JuJu?


Later, Bud

As expected, the Steelers lost pass rusher Bud Dupree in free agency. He went to the Tennessee Titans.

I liked Dupree. The Steelers missed him late in 2020 after he suffered a knee injury in Week 11. Tennessee needs pass-rushing help. They had a meager 19 sacks. The Titans had long been rumored as a destination for Dupree. He’ll be good there.

Dupree’s fellow outside linebacker T.J. Watt wanted to send off his friend with some good vibes on social media.

So did team captain Cameron Heyward.

I’m happy for Dupree. He came on strong at the end of his Steelers career. He should remind us that players are allowed to improve even if they get the “bust” tag early in their careers.

Speaking of pass rushers, the New York Jets inked Carl Lawson of the Cincinnati Bengals to the tune of $30 million guaranteed. That’s good news for Pittsburgh. He had 12 quarterback hits in two games against the Steelers last year.

Get that guy out of the AFC North.

However, Cincy offset Lawson’s departure by signing Trey Hendrickson ($32 million over the first two years) from the New Orleans Saints. Hendrickson had 13.5 sacks last year, tied with Aaron Donald (Los Angeles Rams) for second most in the NFL behind T.J. Watt’s league-leading 15.


Black-and-Gold to Green-and-White?

Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton may leave Pittsburgh via free agency. But he might not leave the state.

According to ESPN.com, the Eagles may be one of the landing spots for the nickelback.

“The early feedback indicates that Steelers corner Mike Hilton has positioned himself at or near the top of the slot or nickel corner market,” writes Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano. “His ability to cover and blitz (9.5 sacks since 2017) makes him a seamless fit for a defense that plays heavy zone and brings pressure (think Bears, Packers, Chargers, Falcons, or Eagles).”

I hadn’t seen much chatter about Hilton and the Eagles before that post. I did hear some about that Packers idea, though. And the San Francisco 49ers.

Oh, and … wait for it … the Cleveland Browns.

Based on the market that could be available for Hilton, if he does wind up in Philly, I suspect he’ll be able to pay for the tolls on the turnpike.


Ravens rumblings

As for the Baltimore Ravens, they’ll be losing a familiar name on defense but gaining one on offense.

As news leaked out from the legal tampering period, we found out that pass rusher Matthew Judon is heading to the New England Patriots for big money.

Judon has 34.5 sacks and 236 combined tackles in 76 career games played. He’s been a Pro Bowler the last two years.

While Judon is bailing from Baltimore, the Ravens are trying to bolster their offensive line with some of the money they won’t be spending on him.

Still fishing for a replacement at guard for retired All-Pro Marshal Yanda, the team signed Kevin Zeitler.

Zeitler had been released by the New York Giants on Wednesday because of his $12 million salary which would’ve been due in 2021. Prior to his stop in New York, Zeitler had played in both Cleveland and Cincinnati.


A good run

The women’s hockey team at Robert Morris had a tough draw in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament Monday.

As the eighth seed, they took on top-ranked Northeastern. And the powerhouse Huskies were too much for Paul Colontino’s Colonials, winning a 5-1 contest in Erie.

Goalie Raygan Kirk made 41 saves in defeat, and Emily Curlett scored the lone goal of the game for RMU.

The Colonials were outshot 46-21. The Huskies improved to 21-1-1. RMU’s season ends at 16-8-1. Shadyside Academy product — and Pittsburgh Penguins Elite alum — Gwyneth Philips is one of the goalies on the Northeastern roster.

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.

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