With a new contract completed for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ biggest managerial task is now behind them, which means it’s time to begin moving onto other things. The first and foremost task is examining which of their pending free agents they want to keep, and at what price.
As of now, the team is scheduled to have 19 players hit unrestricted free agency at the start of the new league year on March 17, and that is headlined by some big names like Alejandro Villanueva, Bud Dupree, and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Villanueva is easily the least likely to be retained. At best, they may have a shot at keeping one of the three, unless they do something drastic in terms of cuts.
Smith-Schuster has regularly been tossed around as the player most likely to be retained, and he has made his own views pretty clear about his desire to stay in Pittsburgh—provided that they were able to pay him what he is worth.
The four-year veteran has even recently been commenting on teammates’ social media posts relating to contracts. Under a post made by Zach Banner, He wrote, “wish I can get one”, with a series of crying emojis. Under an NFL post about Roethlisberger’s new deal, he wrote, “let’s go”, and then, “now let’s talk”.
There is clear mutual interest in keeping the band together, and one might be persuaded to think that the pay cut Roethlisberger took this offseason could help in doing that, though that cut didn’t move the needle nearly as much as the spread of his salary did.
Chase Claypool posted a TikTok video yesterday regarding Smith-Schuster, writing, “I got your back @juju”, with a laughing emoji. In the first half of the video, captioned, ‘when any other team tries signing JuJu’, he is seen with glasses scanning a paper representing a contract, and holding a wad of money.
The second half of the video is labeled, ‘me: “he stays in Pittsburgh”’. From the opposite side of the screen, wearing a Steelers hoodie, he bursts into the frame violent throwing the wad of money, then happy counts the small handful of bills remaining as he dances offscreen.
Smith-Schuster is due to easily make an eight-figure annual salary, perhaps in the range of $15 million per season. Whether or not Pittsburgh can afford that may hinge greatly on how willing he is to be flexible on the structure, which would necessitate a smaller signing bonus than what he could get on the open market and a low year-one base salary in order to accommodate their salary cap situation.
Dw I got your back @juju 😂