Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: With two of the top names on the wide receiver market having been given the franchise tag, and Kenny Golladay still expected to be retained by the Detroit Lions before the new league year, JuJu Smith-Schuster is in line to be arguably the top name on the market at the wide receiver position next week, which will help to maximize his earning potential.
Unlike quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has never said that he doesn’t care about his pay. Then again, Smith-Schuster’s four-year career earnings for playing the game of football don’t even equal the $5 million pay cut Roethlisberger just took off of his $14 million 2021 compensation, over his career earnings that comfortably exceed $250 million.
In other words, one way or another, Smith-Schuster is gonna get paid. He’s not going to take a significant discount to stay in Pittsburgh, even if he hopes that the Steelers are high enough in the bidding, at least in APY, to keep them in the mix and give him the option of staying where he started—and where his mom wants him to be.
But there’s no denying that he has more leverage as he wakes up today than he did yesterday with Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin, two of the top names on the wide receiver market, being given the franchise tag, which removes the option of teams negotiating with those players.
That’s good for Smith-Schuster, obviously, but assuming that it’s not feasible for Pittsburgh to retain him, it’s good for the Steelers as well, as it would help to maximize their 2022 draft pick compensation for him.
The Steelers would be better on the field with him than without him, irrespective of the money, and they could work out a contract that keeps his 2021 cap hit relatively low so that it wouldn’t unduly burden their intentions for this season, but it’s still tough to see as we approach the finish line—or the starting line, depending on how you look at it.