On Friday March 18, unrestricted free agent wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster revealed that he would be leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers to go to the Kansas City Chiefs, as may have been his plan all along. In the wake of that news, the former Steelers second-round pick took to social media—along with his mom, Sammy Toa-Schuster—to issue a variety of statements to Steelers Nation.
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‘If Your (Sic) Not Wanted Then Why? Stay!!!’
In the all-caps message, she lamented losing 400k followers overnight before claiming that “JuJu & I fought to stay in Pittsburgh bc it was never about money it was about loyalty.. But I guess Steelers had a new boyfriend in mind … so they didn’t want JuJu anymore.
“FYI Pittsburgh!! We fought to stay!!! If your (sic) not wanted then why? stay!!!” she concluded, before thanking the “loyal” fans are still following her on Instagram.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is Costing the Steelers $5.6 Million (in Cap Space) in 2022
Of course, it’s improbable that the Steelers didn’t want JuJu Smith-Schuster back. But it’s not surprising that they would be wary of making another financial commitment to him, for a number of reasons.
First, there’s the question of how durable he can be going forward. Smith-Schuster has been a regular on the Steelers injury report in recent years and missed the large majority of last season with a painful-looking shoulder injury suffered in Week 5 against the Denver Broncos.
Moreover, he has averaged just 8.6 yards per reception in each of the past two seasons and has just 1,512 receiving yards (total) in the past three years, as per Pro Football Reference.
Another issue is that the Steelers already have millions in salary cap space tied up in Smith-Schuster in 2022, thanks to a $5.6 million dead money cap charge (per overthecap.com) stemming from the voidable years that were part of the one-year, $8 million contract he signed in 2021.
By itself that could make the Steelers uncomfortable with matching or beating the contract offered by the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs. Never mind that only $3 million of the deal is in the form of salary, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, adding context to the $10.75 million figure originally reported by his colleague Ian Rapoport.
A Thank You Message from JuJu
In the midst of all the hoopla surrounding the news of Smith-Schuster’s departure, the 25-year-old receiver posted a thank you note to Steelers Nation on Instagram, in which he called the last five years the “best five years” of his life.
“I owe so much to the fans who embraced me and who made playing on Sundays in Pittsburgh so special,” he concluded. “It was an honor to wear the black and gold for you all!”
Smith-Schuster Will Wear No. 9 in Kansas City
Meanwhile, it appears that Smith-Schuster has chosen to wear No. 9 with the Chiefs. That’s the number he wore in college at USC before the Steelers selected him No. 62 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Smith-Schuster finishes his Steelers career with 323 receptions for 3,855 yards and 26 receiving touchdowns, along with one Pro Bowl honor (2018) and a pair of 97-yard touchdown catches, one in 2017 and another in 2018.
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