Is it a forgone conclusion that the Pittsburgh Steelers will lose wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster during free agency in roughly two and a half weeks from now? While things certainly do seem to be headed that way with the start of the 2021 league year now looming, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN said Monday during an interview on 93.7 The Fan that Smith-Schuster leaving town in the next month isn’t necessarily a forgone conclusion in his mind.
“I wouldn’t put it as a done deal,” Fowler said of Smith-Schuster likely leaving the Steelers this offseason. “You know, he’s going to have pretty significant interest. I think he’s on, say, like, the Jets, Raiders, I think those are two teams that have him at least on a short list of receivers they’re looking at. So, he’ll have a nice market. I wouldn’t be surprised that Pittsburgh let that play out and then they can always come over the top with an offer if they feel like they can sign them there. But I don’t think they’re going to rush to sign him any minute.”
Fowler went on to state that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger might be pushing hard for Smith-Schuster to be re-signed this offseason as well.
“But remember this is a guy that Ben Roethlisberger has a great connection with,” Fowler said. “When Roethlisberger met with team president Art Rooney, they were discussing the structure of the team. That was a big part of it. It wasn’t just the money, it’s just, can we get a competitive team and have the right pieces around? And Smith-Schuster is a part of that. Now, they’ve got the three young receivers on cheap deals that they can roll with, that they feel comfortable with, and that kind of hurts his chances a little bit.”
Once again, as of right now, Smith-Schuster appears to have one foot out of Pittsburgh and especially judging by a social media comment he made on Sunday when responding to an Instagram post by tackle Zach Banner. Even so, things can move quickly between the Steelers and Smith-Schuster as soon as they get the contract of Roethlisberger take care of as that move should put the team under the cap. We’ll just have to wait and see if the Steelers can get far enough below that cap so that they can make a serious run at re-signing Smith-Schuster.
While Smith-Schuster has said quite often this offseason that he wishes to ultimately re-sign with the Steelers, his market value of around $17 million per season will make it tough to come to fruition. Should Smith-Schuster ultimately hit free agency on March 17, odds are probably good that he won’t be re-signing with the Steelers. Regardless, Fowler isn’t ready to say that the idea of Smith-Schuster re-signing should be dead.
“But I wouldn’t take it off the table,” Fowler said.