Though the sting of the 42-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and the end of the Ben Roethlisberger era remains fresh, Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster — who made a surprise return to the field in the AFC Wild Card matchup — wants it known he wants to stay in Pittsburgh for the next four years, at minimum.
Smith-Schuster, who was lost for the regular season in Week 6 against the Denver Broncos with a shoulder injury that would ultimately require surgery, worked his tail off to recover from a 6-month injury in three months, giving him one last chance at suiting up with the Steelers and catch passes from Roethlisberger.
The fifth-year receiver did just that, finishing with 26 receiving yards on five receptions, making some tough catches in traffic in the loss while adding some toughness after the catch. Though his presence ultimately didn’t will the Steelers to an emotional win, he certainly was a factor in the loss and made the case for sticking around in Pittsburgh long-term.
Following the loss, Smith-Schuster spoke to the media and expressed his desire to remain in with the only franchise he’s ever known in his career, stating he’d love to sign a four-year deal and remain a Steeler long-term.
“Honestly, it would be a blessing,” Smith-Schuster said to reporters Sunday night when asked if he’d like to remain in Pittsburgh, according to video via the Steelers’ official YouTube page. “You know, I love the city. I love the fans. I love coach Tomlin. I love the coaches, my teammates, players, everyone…the media side to the training room. It’s been unbelievable. My career here has been amazing.
“It would be nice, you know, to stay here and to play with these guys again, same coaches and everyone,” Smith-Schuster added. “So yeah, it would be nice to stay for another four years.”
JuJu Smith-Schuster on Ben Roethlisberger: "I owe so much of my career to that guy. I'm just so appreciative of him."
— Josh Carney (@ByJoshCarney) January 17, 2022
Last offseason, Smith-Schuster surprisingly returned to the Steelers on a one-year deal after failing to get the type of contract he was hoping for on the open market. A lot of that was likely due to the flat cap due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the league’s finances. Now though, coming off of a season-ending injury that cost him all but six regular season games one one surprisingly playoff appearance, Smith-Schuster doesn’t have much bargaining ground to stand on.
That said, his determination to return from injury and his willingness to risk a great deal of his future to suit up in the Wild Card matchup undoubtedly endeared him to his teammates, coaches, front office personnel and even the fanbase in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers could absolutely retain Smith-Schuster, considering the mess the wide receiver room was once his leadership was lost. There’s plenty of other holes to address though, so we’ll see if keeping No. 19 around for four more years is a priority.