When free agency started on March 17, it seemed unlikely that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be able to resign wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. However, thanks to a poor free agency market for wide receivers this year, Smith-Schuster re-signed with the Steelers for $8 million and after reportedly turning down what looked like more money from the likes of the Baltimore Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Former Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who has been an NFL analyst for ESPN for several years now, stated recently that he believes no one wanted to give Smith-Schuster money during the offseason.
“Be honest, JuJu ain’t have the offers, y’all,” Clark said. “This decision is as foolish as Uzi Vert, who’s in that song [Corvette, Corvette], getting the pink diamond put right here in the middle of his head. He’s not going to be the guy in Pittsburgh. He’s not going to get the amount of targets that he wants to get. It’s not going to be like playing in Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes, where you know the pass game is huge, you know that you’ll get your opportunities. Or being with Lamar Jackson, where you will be a number one that will be targeted in a spot that Lamar Jackson targets often, where he’s prolific in passing. No, you went to Pittsburgh because the grass wasn’t greener. Because let’s remember, Pittsburgh’s is not allowing you to be you no more anyway.”
Clark then went after the way the Steelers essentially neutered Smith-Schuster and his logo dancing last season after the team went on a losing steak after an 11-0 start.
“He [Smith-Schuster] talks about you embrace me as a 21 year old through the struggles and all this, nah, bro, you had to stop dancing on logos because people were flatlining you and then saying they were flatlining you because you were dancing on logos while y’all were in the losing streak. So, no, you aren’t Pittsburgh. You aren’t Pittsburgh-like. You don’t really act like a Steeler. Other places would have been better, but they didn’t want to give you the money. They didn’t want to give you the long-term deal. So, stop with the performing arts, right. Stop with the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ and it was going to take a wrecking ball to get me out of Pittsburgh. No, it was just going to take a better deal and you ain’t get it.”
Clark knows all about failed unrestricted free agency trips as he went through one himself in 2010. After entertaining other offers from other teams, Clark returned to the Steelers and signed a four-year, $14 million contract that included a $3 million signing bonus
“But that’s okay because Pittsburgh’s a great place,” Clark said. “I’m a dude who took a deal that started at $5 million less than somebody else than the Pittsburgh Steelers offered me to stay. I get that, but I ain’t do all this stuff around it. I went back, I played football. I went to another Super Bowl. I went to a Pro Bowl. Everybody loved it. I loved it. My family was happy. I was rich enough.”
So, what was Clarks overall and general message for Smith-Schuster?
“Just go play ball, JuJu,” Clark advised. “This wasn’t the time for you. Maybe next year will be.”
Meh, it seems like this is an unnecessary and over-the-top take overall but this is exactly what Clark is paid to do now for ESPN. Smith-Schuster hit unrestricted free agency at an awful time and that is the long and short of it. The better deals he reportedly turned down from the Ravens and Chiefs included incentives that would have probably been tough for him to hit.
Smith-Schuster talked all offseason about how he really wanted to be back in Pittsburgh and that want seemed very genuine. Would he have left had there been more money in play? Probably and just like Clark would have left the Steelers in 2010 had he received a much better offer. It’s called free agency for a reason.
— BlitzburghUSAVideos (@sdextrasmedia) March 27, 2021