As a fellow member of the terrific 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft class, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is lobbying for 2017 Steelers’ first-rounder T.J. Watt to be paid by the franchise that gave them both an opportunity to live out their NFL dreams.
Speaking to reporters Friday following the second official practice of training camp in Pittsburgh, Smith-Schuster made the case for the Steelers paying Watt. Though it’s a foregone conclusion that the Steelers and Watt will come to an agreement on a market-setting extension at the EDGE position prior to Week 1, Smith-Schuster was quick to throw his support behind his teammate, praising Watt for his play on the field and making the case for his importance to the franchise.
“Yeah, they got to pay T.J.,” Smith-Schuster said to reporters. “They got to take care of T.J. He’s a guy who is a nonstop motor guy. He deserves it, you know, every bit of it. So if anyone on the team deserves to be paid, he’s a guy who would be great for the Steelers not just now, but in the future for sure.
“T.J. [should get] 130, 140, 150 [million] easily,” Smith-Schuster added.
Though a fellow teammate should never truly be talking about another player’s money, Smith-Schuster handled this well as the Steelers and Watt continue to discuss an extension.
Watt truly does deserve every bit of what’s coming his way financially, considering he’s quickly developed into the game’s best EDGE defender, regardless of what other media outlets say. He’s one of the most disruptive defenders in the NFL, and will turn just 27 years old in October, meaning he’s just hitting his prime.
As a guy that came into Pittsburgh in the same draft class with Watt, Smith-Schuster has seen firsthand the work that Watt puts in, which gives him ground to stand one when it comes to commenting on Watt’s work ethic and what he means to the franchise. I never like to see a reporter ask a player about a teammate’s contract negotiation, but Smith-Schuster pivoted well here and made it mostly about the player Watt is, rather than his financial worth.
“He means so much [to this team], man,” Smith-Schuster said. “I’m not just talking about on the field, off the field, you know? He’s our spokesman for our team. You know, he speaks, you know, not by actions. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk and you know, that’s the one you want in your locker room. And I’ve noticed that, you know, the day I walked in as a rookie, he deserved every, every piece of it.”
It would be nice to see the Steelers retain Watt long-term, and then somehow find a way to retain Smith-Schuster long-term next offseason after a vicious free agency cycle for the young receiver this past offseason resulted in him getting a meager one-year deal on the open market. Smith-Schuster is an important piece to the success of the Steelers offense and is a key leader in the receiver room, but for now the attention is on Watt and his next contract, which I’m sure Smith-Schuster is happy with considering the way minicamp went following his comments about his one-year deal.