Had you told Pittsburgh Steelers fans at the start of free agency that wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster would be re-signing with the team, I’m sure most of them would have dismissed the notion—and many would have made a face of disgust over the idea of him staying, as well.
Whatever the reasons behind it, though, we certainly can’t dismiss the economic equation. Outside of Kenny Golladay, there weren’t wasn’t a market for wide receiver this year due to the salary cap shortfall and a strong draft class.
Smith-Schuster had said all along that he wanted to stay, even with many very vocal individuals saying just the opposite, such as Mark Madden, a local media personality who is best known for his aggressively-expressed takes about all things Pittsburgh sports. While he hasn’t been the only one in the media by any means, Madden has been among the most vocal, and people like Pat McAfee took notice.
“I think he did it in spite of two people, which makes me love the move even more”, he joked yesterday on his show, noting that one of them is in the room with him, and “the other one is Mark Madden in Pittsburgh. I enjoy the way JuJu thinks. He’s a businessman, he’s running his whole thing. If he did this just to say **** you to Mark Madden and Tone Digs. I would absolutely love it”.
I’m not even going to link to anything he’s said or written about Smith-Schuster before or after the signing, because I really don’t think it’s worth getting into, but there’s a reason that McAfee was so readily able to recall him as an example for his soundbite.
Of course, Smith-Schuster didn’t re-sign in Pittsburgh out of spite, and McAfee did acknowledge other factors at play. “I think he does like Ben Roethlisberger, and I think a lot of these guys realize that next offseaon’s gonna be big. You’re gonna see a lot more” of a robust market in 2022, he said.
A part of me does wonder how the next year will play out for the young wide receiver, and whether or not my perception of the distaste that has grown for him is disproportionately represented by my exposure to the fan base. I think it’s quite likely that the average Steelers fan likes Smith-Schuster a lot more than the average Steelers Depot reader, many of whom are pretty annoyed that he is returning.
The thing is, though, there are a bunch of prominent members of the media writing articles right now and going on the radio talking about how this was a mistake, and this and that. Smith-Schuster has pretty much taken the high road, not even really acknowledging that there is a bunch of people annoyed at him and who were hoping he would leave, but will it stay that way?