Truth be told, I really haven’t been keeping up with the pace of the conversation surrounding JuJu Smith-Schuster. I’m not sure if Pittsburgh Steelers fans like him again now that he re-signed with the team on a one-year, $8 million deal with four void years, in doing so taking less money than he could have gotten for two AFC teams who figure to be perennial contenders in the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens.
I’m sure it changed some fans’ minds. Others will continue to dislike him for his ‘antics’, while still others will remain cynical about his intentions. Of course there is some business acumen to consider in his taking a one-year deal with the team he’s been playing for as the number one receiver in a deflated market with the anticipation of a more robust one a year from now.
But he’s also said all along that, all things being equal, he would want to stay in Pittsburgh, and it’s not like this deal doesn’t mean anything in that regard. He literally could have signed on to play with Patrick Mahomes, where he would have fit in with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, for a team that threw the ball 630 times last year. People argued that his targets would be down there, but he’s literally a possession guy. He would have taken targets away from the others. They would all have probably had 1000-yard seasons.
After signing yesterday, Smith-Schuster talked to Taylor Bisciotti on Instagram live last night to discuss the deal and the upcoming season for the Steelers. At one point, she asked him what the free agent experience was like and if he reached out to anybody for advice—he said he didn’t, but he had others who were pursuing him talk to him instead.
“It was mostly head coaches reaching out to me, like John Harbaugh, Andy Reid. Pretty much everyone that I’ve noticed that’s been a big impact in the NFL. Players like Marlon Humphrey, Lamar Jackson, they were just reaching out”, he said.
“It was really cool just to have teams that were interested”, he added. “It’s a blessing. But I think my heart’s here; it’s always been here”.
As we wrote here yesterday, he reiterated that he still hopes to remain in Pittsburgh for the long term, and that is still a possibility, with the salary cap likely being in a healthier place a year from now and all that. But it will also depend on how this season goes—and what the wide receiver market looks like in 2022. Because it’s still a business, and business doesn’t care where your heart is, so you have to find a balance between the two.
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