Did Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster play his last game for the franchise Sunday night in the team’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns? It’s quite possible as the team’s former second-round draft pick out of USC is now scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 17. After the Sunday loss, Smith-Schuster let it be known that he hopes to be back with the Steelers in 2021 and on Monday he reiterated that stance on social media.
“I am a proud Steeler through thick and thin,” Smith-Schuster wrote in his online statement. “I would love to be back for more, to be part of the group that brings this organization to where it belongs. Thank you for the support and having my back.”
Smith-Schuster’s heavy social media presence doesn’t seemingly thrill a large portion of the team’s fan base. Additionally, the TikTok pregame dances that Smith-Schuster did on the logos of several road team opponents this season also resulted in the wide receiver being the focal point of severe criticism for several weeks. Comments that Smith-Schuster made days before the Steelers game against the Browns were also interpreted as slights by many and that includes by several Cleveland players.
Smith-Schuster is a good kid through and through. He also caught 97 passes for 832 yards and nine touchdowns during the regular season and had another 13 receptions for 157 yards and a touchdown in the team’s 48-37 Sunday night home playoff loss to the Browns.
Like it or not, Smith-Schuster is now set to cash in big this coming offseason as his market value floor figures to be around $16 million per season. His market value ceiling could potentially be a few more million than that based on what other wide receivers around the NFL are currently earning.
The Steelers organization would obviously like to have Smith-Schuster back in 2021. Whether or not they will be able to make that happen will depend on several factors with the NFL’s 2021 salary cap number being one of them. It’s plausible that the Steelers could re-sign Smith-Schuster during the offseason. If, however, that ultimately happens, the Steelers might need to part ways with a few other veteran players currently under contract for the 2021 season.
The start of the 2021 free agency signing period is March 17. If Smith-Schuster remains unsigned by then, odds are good that he’ll be playing for a different team next season. It will be interesting to see Smith-Schuster’s pending free agent situation play out in the next 60 days. In the meantime, however, he’s made it more than clear that he wants to remain in Pittsburgh with the Steelers.