Of all the pending Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) the Pittsburgh Steelers face this offseason, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster might be the biggest name of them all. The exuberant USC product took the Steelers’ global fan base by storm, and although he seems to have soured in the waning year of his rookie contract, the team will have a tough decision to make on their former 2nd round draft picks.
As for Smith-Schuster, he told FOX Sports Radio this week he “would love to come back” to Pittsburgh, but he then went on to describe the type of team he wanted to play for moving forward. To be honest, you have to wonder if the Steelers would fit the bill.
See what he said:
“I’m always about winning,” Smith-Schuster told FOX Sports Radio. “I want to be on a team that is fighting and competing for the playoffs every year. As far as the business side and the money, I want to be paid for what I am worth. Obviously for what I do for the team particularly.”
Like it or not, the Steelers are staring a rebuild square in the fact, it just depends on how long they put off the inevitable. When that rebuild starts will be based around the last few seasons of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. Whenever Roethlisberger calls it a career it will start the clock on a rebuild which will have the team ushering out the old, and in with the new.
The new could be a young quarterback, or someone like Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins. Either way, Smith-Schuster might not be willing to stay with a team who is looking at an offense in flux. He might prefer to go to an organization with a solidified quarterback who is ready to keep their team competitive for years to come.
What did Smith-Schuster think of Ben Roethlisberger’s comments at the end of the season? Here is what Roethlisberger said after the playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns:
“I told him how proud I was of him, how much I enjoyed being his teammate, being his quarterback. I don’t know what the future holds. He doesn’t know. I’ll always support him. I’ll always be proud of him. I think he embodies what it is to be a Pittsburgh Steeler.
“He’s tough. He shows grit. You saw some of the plays he made tonight. They were black and gold through and through. I hope I can speak for the fans when I would say that they don’t want him going anywhere, we don’t want him going anywhere. He’s Steelers and he’s fun. I’m just thankful for his efforts.”
Smith-Schuster said Roethlisberger’s comments “means a lot”, and he made it a point to say how Roethlisberger expressed a willingness to rework his contract to free up cap space that could go to other players and that he’d “love to play with Ben for his time here.”
Ultimately it is going to come down to whether the Steelers have enough money to pay Smith-Schuster what he feels he is worth, and Smith-Schuster’s overall desire to remain in Pittsburgh should not be overlooked. If he feels he has worn out his welcome, he could be looking elsewhere regardless of the Steelers’ final offer.
Check out more of Smith-Schuter’s interview on FOX Sports this week in the player below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.