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JuJu Smith-Schuster on free agency: “I want to have my legacy in Pittsburgh”

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver is set to become a free agent this offseason, but he doesn’t want to leave the team that drafted him.

NFL: AFC Wild Card Round-Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The National Football League is as much about Public Relations (PR) as it is straight facts. How you are viewed by the fans, media and, of course, NFL organizations, is almost as important as your production on the football field.

Pending free agents want to say all the right things, so not to burn any bridges as they become a street free agent who is able to sign with anyone willing to pay them what they feel they are worth.

This is certainly the situation Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster finds himself in for the first time in his young career.

After being drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of USC, Smith-Schuster has done nothing but produce for the Steelers since the moment he walked into the facility for the first time.

Nonetheless, due to the team’s failures, and Smith-Schuster falling out of favor with a large contingent of the fan base, he finds himself entering free agency not sure of his future. But where would Smith-Schuster want to end up?

Where it all started...

“At the end of the day, I want to have my legacy in Pittsburgh and retire there,” Smith-Schuster told TMZ. “I don’t want to leave.”

This is easy for Smith-Schuster to say, it is another to make happen. If Smith-Schuster really wanted to stay in Pittsburgh, and wants to leave his legacy with the Steelers, he would be willing to take less to do so.

Again, easier said than done.

Not every player is going to be willing, or consider, taking less money just to remain within a specific organization. Could it happen? Of course anything could happen, but is it likely? Not when another team will pay top dollar for the player’s services.

Smith-Schuster didn’t have the crazy statistics he had since Antonio Brown left the Steelers, but he was a very reliable target for the Steelers in 2019 and 2020, all while battling injury. Here are Smith-Schuster’s statistics from last season:

Games: 16
Receptions: 97
Yards: 831
TD: 9 *
Yards per Reception: 8.6
*- Career High

There will be teams who will pay top dollar for those statistics, even though those are modest statistics for Smith-Schuster compared to early in his career. But will he decide to stay in Pittsburgh?

I wouldn’t hold my breath.

In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.