Steelers Barely Register on List of NFL’s Top 75 UFAs

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks to straight arm cornerback Nate Hobbs of the Las Vegas Raiders on September 19, 2021.

The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the offseason with 17 pending unrestricted free agents, but none figures to command the kind of contract the Tennessee Titans gave UFA Bud Dupree last year. On Monday February 7, 2022, The Athletic published its NFL free agency rankings for 2022, a list that includes the names of just two Steelers players, both far down in the rankings.

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WR JuJu Smith-Schuster Ranked No. 54

In fact, no Steelers UFA ranks in the Top 50, with 25-year-old wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster the first mention at No. 54.

“He was a free agent last offseason and settled for a one-year, $8 million deal to return to Pittsburgh,” notes The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia, only to suffer a shoulder injury that limited him to five regular-season games. “It seems unlikely that Smith-Schuster will find a richer deal than he was offered last offseason, given that he had just 15 catches for 129 yards. But he’s still just 25 years old and could interest teams in the market for a tough slot receiver,” he concludes.

That’s what the former second-round pick appears to be anticipating. Veteran NFL reporter Aaron Wilson recently wrote that “it’s no secret in NFL circles” that Smith-Schuster “hopes to join the Chiefs as a free agent and has expressed that desire.”

Yet it seems just as likely that he signs a third contract with the Steelers. After Pittsburgh’s 42-21 Wild Card loss to the Chiefs, Smith-Schuster said: “Honestly, it would be a blessing (to stay in Pittsburgh). I love the city, I love the fans, I love coach Tomlin…. My career here has been amazing. It would be nice to stay here and play with these guys and the same coaches. It would be nice to stay for another four years.”

Safety Terrell Edmunds Ranked No. 73

One might have thought that the second Steelers player on The Athletic’s list would be cornerback Joe Haden, yet it’s another member of the team’s secondary. Coming in at No. 73 is strong safety Terrell Edmunds, who hits unrestricted free agency because the Steelers elected not to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.

“He hasn’t lived up to his draft slot (28th overall pick in 2018), but Edmunds is one of the youngest players on this list, having just turned 25 in January,” writes Kapadia, before adding that “he’s been incredibly durable, having missed just one game in four seasons.”

Indeed Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has repeatedly commented on how Edmunds’ best ability is his availability.

“A team could convince itself that Edmunds’ best football is still ahead of him,” concludes Kapadia, but unless another club overpays it would not be a surprise to see Edmunds back with Pittsburgh next season. Simply put, the Steelers may not want to make strong safety a position of need in the forthcoming draft, not when the organization has so many other pressing concerns, including quarterback and several positions along the offensive line.

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