Things might look a little but different for the Pittsburgh Steelers following the 2021 NFL Draft had the team not re-signed wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster back in March. After all, Smith-Schuster re-signing with the Steelers ultimately resulted in the team not drafting a wide receiver with one of their nine total selections. How big of a deal was that? It was the first time since 2011 that the Steelers didn’t select at least one wide receiver during the draft. With the draft now concluded, Smith-Schuster seems thrilled with the Steelers’ decision to spend their first four selections on offensive players. He also seems like he is still incredibly happy with his March decision to re-sign with the Steelers as well.
During a recent interview with Daniel Canova of Fox News, Smith-Schuster revealed why he decided to stay with Pittsburgh for at least the 2021 season.
“The biggest thing was that I know everybody, and everybody knows me,” Smith-Schuster told Fox News on Monday. “I know that if I had to bet on myself, I was going to play with Ben [Roethlisberger] again for one more year. I know my wide receivers coach [Ike Hilliard], my relationship with him is amazing. My relationship with the new offensive coordinator [Matt Canada] is really good, and that’s something that plays a huge part in making the right decision.”
He had previously indicated that he had an opportunity to sign with both the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens during free agency. We don’t know the exact offers that Smith-Schuster turned down from those two teams. But reports indicate that Smith-Schuster would have had an opportunity to earn more in 2021 as a member of either than the deal he ultimately re-signed for with the Steelers.
The deal that Smith-Schuster signed with the Steelers includes four years past 2021 that will all void five days after the 2021 Super Bowl is played. In essence, Smith-Schuster’s new contract is one-year and for $9 million. That is way less than the roughly $16-$17 million that a lot of us thought the former USC wide receiver might fetch in free agency this offseason. In summation, Smith-Schuster is now on a one-year prove it deal with hopes that he can cash in much bigger next spring.
“Every year you have to prove yourself,” Smith-Schuster added. “It’s something that I’ve always had on my shoulders. At the same time, it’s a year that I want to go and put numbers up and show people that this is what I’m made of and this is what I do.”
While Smith-Schuster did have a nice 2020 season, his average yard per reception was way too low. The addition of former Alabama running back Najee Harris via the 2021 NFL Draft, in addition to the team addressing the offense with three other picks in the first four rounds, will hopefully result in the team’s running game improving drastically this upcoming season. With Matt Canada now installed as the Steelers’ new offensive coordinator after serving as the team’s quarterback coach in 2020, the hope is that his promotion will severely impact Smith-Schuster’s output in the passing the game moving forward.