If there’s one thing that Mike Tomlin’s Pittsburgh Steelers do, it’s draft wide receivers. One thing they haven’t done is re-sign them. Since 2007, the Steelers have drafted 15 wide receivers, including four in the second round, another four in the third, and one in the fourth. Only one—2010 sixth-round pick Antonio Brown—has gotten a second contract.
They did try to extend 2009 third-round pick Mike Wallace in the Summer of 2012 as he was entering his final season before hitting free agency. When they failed to reach terms on a deal, the front office turned around and signed Brown to an extension instead.
Since then, they haven’t had any ideal opportunities to extend anybody else, especially with Brown on the books. Martavis Bryant looked to be the next thing for a while, but his battles with drugs derailed his career.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is their first real major opportunity to extend another wide receiver, but it comes in a year in which they hardly have any cap space. Though he’s put up some of the best numbers of any Steelers wide receiver in the first four years of their career, it looks like he’s heading elsewhere. But if he had the choice, where would he be? That’s the question he was asked earlier this offseason when he made an appearance on the Fierce Talk program with Ryan Garcia.
“If I had it may way, I would definitely stay with the Steelers”, he said, “because you think about the teams that are always competing for the playoffs, the championship…the biggest thing with me is like, the money’s gonna be there. I want to win a ring. I want to get one of these. I want to have one of these in my house to put up”.
“I don’t know if I can go to a team and they’re not competing”, he added. “They could offer me the most money, but at the end of the day, I’ve just got to see what fits best for me. With that being said, I need a quarterback, I want to compete for the playoffs, I want to win a ring”.
As of now, Smith-Schuster has yet to sign with anybody. Earlier in the interview, which was likely conducted in early March or late February, he said that the team had not even reached out to him about a contract. It is unknown if anything has changed since then. But it sounds like he wishes it had.
“I don’t have to go to a whole new team and make them like me. Who I am is who I am. That’s my personality”, he said about what it would mean to stay in Pittsburgh, among other things. “I’m not going to change for nobody. So being with the Steelers, I’m cool with the coaches, I’m cool with the players, everyone loves me in the locker room, everyone loves me just being there, so I don’t have to go outside of that and go to a whole different team and start all over”.
Smith-Schuster has soured a lot of fans over the course of the past couple of years, though many of those reasons—the timing of very rare fumbles, low yards-per-catch figures while being asked to play close to the line of scrimmage—don’t have a lot of merit.
Still, it would be interesting to see how his re-signing would be received, especially a year from now. If he comes back and he has a good season, puts up 1000 yards with eight-plus touchdowns, and doesn’t dance on any logos—are we back to JuJu and his bike?