The Pittsburgh Steelers would like to re-sign impending free-agent JuJu Smith-Schuster this offseason. The wideout has also hinted at his desire to remain with the team that once used a second-round pick on him back in 2017 to bring him to the Steel City.
However, rumblings out of Pittsburgh are singing a slightly different tune.
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JuJu Smith-Schuster Eyeing a ‘Major Market’?
Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has reported that sources indicated Smith-Schuster would like to play in a major market where he can “expand his off-field brand and burgeoning social-media presence.”
Pat McAfee discussed the reported developments during a recent airing of The Pat McAfee Show, in which Smith-Schuster took the opportunity to adamantly deny the report, citing his own “sources,” via Twitter.
Despite Smith-Schuster’s denial, the Steelers may still find it extremely difficult to keep their wideout in the black and gold next season. Namely due to the fact that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is scheduled to count for more than $41 million against the cap next season, a projected reduced cap at that (2020’s cap – $198 million, 2021’s cap floor – $175 million).
With that said, should Pittsburgh allow Smith-Schuster to walk this offseason, a move to New York could potentially prove beneficial for both he and a Giants team in desperate need of wide receiver help.
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JuJu Smith-Schuster a Fit in New York?
A few years back JuJu Smith-Schuster was perceived as one of the most beloved characters in all of football. A hard-working, fun-loving wideout, the former USC product looked to have superstardom on the horizon. However, struggles in 2019 to solidify himself as a No. 1 target in an Antonio Brown-less offense, as well as a slew of questionable comments and dancing on logos for TikTok, have seemingly turned Smith-Schuster into a villain nearly overnight.
Yet, he still presents immense upside as a 24-year-old with a 1,400-plus yard receiving season and a Pro Bowl nod under his belt. The issue at hand is the debate of whether Smith-Schuster can handle the burden of serving as a team’s go-to option in the passing game. This rings especially true for a Giants team, because the last thing they need is yet another No. 2 wideout on their roster.
Smith-Schuster did lead the Steelers in receptions this season with 97, good enough for ninth-most league-wide. However, he finished with just 831 receiving yards, the lowest output amongst the NFL’s top-18 players in receptions. In fact, since Antonio Brown left Pittsburgh, Smith-Schuster has averaged less than 50 ypg over his 28 contests, 49.39 ypg to be exact. Reminder, this is a guy who finished 2018 as a top-five receiver in yards (1,426) with Brown in the lineup.
This season it was teammate Diontae Johnson who paced the Steelers in receiving yards, collecting 923, and looking like Big Ben’s preferred target for the majority of the year (10-plus targets in 11 of his 15 games). Add in the ever-emerging Chase Claypool as well as an underrated James Washington, and Pittsburgh may be best served to spend their money elsewhere this offseason.
As for JuJu’s fit in New York, he actually makes sense for both MetLife occupants, as a move to the Jets would reunite him with his college quarterback Sam Darnold. That is actually the destination Pro Football Focus recently pegged for the wideout. They predicted Smith-Schuster to ink a four-year, $68 million deal ($35 million guaranteed).
In terms of a potential Giants marriage, Smith-Schuster would immediately catapult himself to the top of the team’s pecking order at wideout. He’d also give quarterback Daniel Jones a young playmaker to develop alongside for years to come.
There are really two glaring questions here. One, would Smith-Schuster’s personality fit the culture that head coach Joe Judge has worked so hard to overhaul? And two, can Smith-Schuster be the No. 1 wide receiver that the Giants so desperately need?
That’s up for the organization to determine.
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