No one knows if 2021 will be Ben Roethlisberger’s final season. There’s a good chance Roethlisberger isn’t even sure. But wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster believes this is Roethlisberger’s final ride.
Smith-Schuster talked to Inside Hook about Roethlisberger’s future.
“Being able to play with Ben again for one more year… I believe right now on paper it is his last one. I think it is,” Smith-Schuster told the outlet.
Roethlisberger’s return to the Steelers, one that included a $5 million paycut and a contract restructure, is one of the central reasons why Smith-Schuster took less money from Pittsburgh to return on a one-year, $8 million deal. Roethlisberger’s contract is set to void five days after the Super Bowl. He won’t become a free agent until the start of the 2022 new league year.
Smith-Schuster says he hopes to make the most of what could be their final year together.
“But as far as Ben, this year is special because it’ll be his last. He had a tremendous career for 15-plus years and it would be great to go out with a W.
“He was telling me I have 17 games with him during the regular season. It goes fast. So for me, it’s definitely motivation to play my heart out for him and the team.”
Those words certainly back up Smith-Schuster’s actions of returning to the Steelers. Roethlisberger helped turn him into a solid wide receiver, especially his first two seasons with the team. His 2019 was marred by Roethlisberger’s injury, while Smith-Schuster’s role last season was much more like a tight end route tree, hurting his yards per catch numbers.
Odds are Smith-Schuster is right and Roethlisberger will retire after this season. But he’s also among the most competitive players on the team. If he feels healthy, he could attempt to keep playing into 2022.