On Thursday Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster addressed his decision to reject both the Baltimore Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency and remain in Pittsburgh for at least one more year. “Loyalty” was a big driving factor, he said, via NFL.com. “Staying with my quarterback that I’ve been playing with for the last four years and the fact that he’s coming back for one more year, and the fact that I [could] have that … one-year deal, just [how the] organization set everything up for me….”
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Not that the prospect of going to a team like the Chiefs and playing with the trio of Patrick Mahomes, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce wasn’t enticing.
“Don’t get me wrong, Patrick Mahomes is a great quarterback and he will be for the next decade, but I think it’s just a loyalty to my coaches, my receiver coach and to my quarterback,” explained Smith-Schuster.
Steelers Fans ‘Would Destroy Me’
But he admits that another issue also played a key role in his decision: fear of how fans would react if he signed on with Pittsburgh’s biggest rival.
“I already knew if I went to the Ravens, fans would destroy me,” he said.
Nor did he relish the thought of moving and learning an entirely new playbook for a one-year deal with the Chiefs or Ravens.
Now he has the opportunity to test free agency again in early 2022, when the salary cap could jump as high as $208.2 million, up from $182.5 million in 2021.
“Next year is obviously a year where the cap will be so much better, so much bigger,” noted Smith-Schuster. As such, he’s looking forward to having a big year, so he can maximize his value in March 2022.
“At the end of the day, this year, I’ve got to go out there, ball out, do what I’ve got to do and put stuff on tape to make my value even better.”
Smith-Schuster: ‘Pittsburgh is Definitely Still an Option’
Whether JuJu Smith-Schuster cashes in on a multi-year deal with the Steelers or another team remains to be seen. He’s certainly aware that only two other Pittsburgh wideouts have received a second contract with the team since the era of free agency got underway in the early 1990s, the others being Hines Ward and Antonio Brown.
“I think to come back for another four more years and have nine years as a Steeler would be tremendous and remarkable,” he added. “It would be [almost] unheard of from a [Steelers] receiver standpoint. No doubt. Don’t get it wrong. Pittsburgh is definitely still an option on the table, and I know that they’ll fight hard and they’re one of the teams that have the most cap [in 2022].
Meanwhile, he remains pumped up about the prospect of getting to play with rookie running back Najee Harris. He also has another goal for the 2021 season: Convincing Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to join him in a touchdown celebration.
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