One of the more surprising moves this offseason tied to the Pittsburgh Steelers was the fact that they managed to bring JuJu Smith-Schuster back on a one-year, $8 million contract. He was offered slightly better deals from at least a couple of other teams, but ultimately decided to accept the Steelers offer when it became clear that he would not be able to land the big contract this offseason.
While he did score nine touchdowns last season, on 97 receptions, the manner in which he was used resulted in him having just an 8.7 yards per reception figure that no doubt has people questioning if he can be a number one receiver. He also raised questions about his maturity during the whole dancing fiasco.
We don’t get many interviews during this time of year, but we did get to hear from general manager Kevin Colbert over the weekend, who talked with Dan Sileo on the National Football Show about a variety of topics, including Smith-Schuster, his TikTok behavior, and setting their sights forward.
“In JuJu’s case, he did want to stay, and we wanted JuJu to be here. None of us are perfect. Some of us do some things that we wish we hadn’t done”, Colbert said. “I mean, I’ve drafted some players that haven’t worked out. Coach has made some decisions on, whatever, 3rd and 1, that he may regret. But we all have to live with our mistakes and learn from our shortcomings. That’s the challenge that we all have”.
You probably don’t need reminding, but Smith-Schuster drew headlines as the season progressed as opponents and other onlookers took note of his pre-game dance ritual on opposing teams’ center-field logos. His stubbornness about it when questioned—until after he was embarrassed in primetime against the Cincinnati Bengals—only made it worse.
But the reality is that he still did what was asked of him on the field, and they expect to be able to ask more of him this year in more diverse roles than they were able to put him in a year ago, in Matt Canada’s offense. The Steelers have one vision, and it is unambiguous.
“Super Bowl is all we’re talking about. If we’re not winning a Super Bowl, there’s nothing else to talk about”, Colbert said. They fell far short of that goal once again in 2020, but they still believe that Smith-Schuster can be part of their best effort in this upcoming season.
What the future holds beyond 2021 remains to be seen. Both Smith-Schuster and James Washington will be unrestricted free agents the following year, while Diontae Johnson will follow a year later. They must decide which of their young wideouts they believe is their future.