What’s going to happen with Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster over the course of the next six weeks? Will the Steelers re-sign him before the former second-round draft pick of theirs becomes an unrestricted free agent in March, or will he ultimately sign a lucrative contract with a new team well before the month of March ends? We’ll find out soon enough, but in the meantime, Smith-Schuster is making the media rounds this week ahead of Super Bowl LV and answering various questions about what al transpired last season with the Steelers as well as what he thinks the immediate future holds for him.
On Monday, Smith-Schuster was a guest on ‘The Doug Gottlieb Show’ and late in the interview he was asked about his pending free agent situation. Just for the sake of proper context, Smith-Schuster was asked how he plans on going about balancing out winning, the quarterback he plays with, the style of play and a place like Pittsburgh in his mind when it comes to free agency.
“Yeah, for me, I’m always about winning,” Smith-Schuster said. “I want to be on a team where we’re fighting, where we’re competing for the playoffs every year. As far as the business side and the money, I feel like I want to be paid for what I’m worth, obviously, for what I do for the team, particularly. And then again, it all makes sense to bring in Ben [Roethlisberger] and to have a quarterback who I can play with for the future.”
So, what can we take from that quote from Smith-Schuster? It’s hard to pinpoint but the main takeaway is that the young wide receiver definitely expects to be paid what he’s worth in the coming six weeks. In Smith-Schuster’s case, his worth is likely at least $16.5 million per season and maybe as high as $18.5 million. If that’s ultimately the range of Smith-Schuster’s worth, the Steelers are going to have a tough time accommodating that via a long-term contract agreement in the next six weeks and especially if the 2021 NFL salary cap number doesn’t come in north of $180 million.
Smith-Schuster obviously would like to remain in Pittsburgh moving forward and especially if Roethlisberger returns for at least one more season, which it sounds like he will as of last week when he stated that he would do whatever’s necessary when it comes to his contract to help the team out from a salary cap perspective. Smith-Schuster certainly got wind of Roethlisberger’s remarks last week.
“It means a lot,” Smith-Schuster said of Roethlisberger’s contract-related comments he made last week. “I mean, you’re talking about a guy who he wants to play again. He wants to have the same guys around him and that’s what it’s probably going to take. He doesn’t care about the money. He wants to restructure his contract and I think that’s pretty cool. It just goes to show that he’s more about the team than anything else.”
Smith-Schuster, at least according to his Instagram account, started his offseason training on Monday after presumably taking the last few weeks off after the Steelers lost to the Cleveland Browns in the super Wild Card round of the playoffs. He’ll likely to several interviews this week ahead of the super Bowl so we’re likely to be recapping more comments of his on his pending free agency situation. In the meantime, Smith-Schuster made it known on Monday that he thought he represented himself well on the field in 2020.
“I think I did pretty well, Smith-Schuster said. “As far as like converting on third downs, as far as making plays for my team when it must be needed, catching the ball, getting vertical, I think I did a pretty good job on when they called out my name, I was there to answer.”
Smith-Schuster also made it clear on Monday that he would love to be back in Pittsburgh in 2021.
“I would love to come back,” Smith-Schuster said. “I’d love to play with Ben for those times being here.”