Should he stay or should he go? That’s the question WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, along with every other pending free agent, is asking himself right now. With free agency set to kickoff next month, NFL.com’s Adam Rank played a game of stay-or-go for some of the top free agents this offseason.
When it came to Smith-Schuster, Rank said he should leave the Steelers and look for a new team. Here’s what he wrote:
“It was really telling that, when he hit the market around this time last year, JuJu wanted to stay in Pittsburgh out of loyalty and to prove that he still had it. But the one-year deal he signed obviously didn’t work out the way that he wanted it to, with the receiver limited to five games by a shoulder injury. To cap it off, his return for the playoffs ended in elimination by a team that wanted JuJu last offseason — the Kansas City Chiefs. I’m not sure if K.C. would still want to rekindle that spark, but never say never.
Regardless of where JuJu might end up, though, talk that Mason Rudolph might start in the wake of Ben Roethlisberger‘s retirement should have JuJu ready to bounce. Giving it a shot with one more year of Big Ben made a lot of sense. But staying with Rudolph, with all due respect, is not the same kind of risk.”
Smith-Schuster nearly left the Steelers a year ago and in fact turned down a chance for more money from the Kansas City Chiefs to stay in Pittsburgh. Smith-Schuster cited a desire to return for two reasons. Playing with Ben Roethlisberger and his relationship with WRs Coach Ike Hilliard. Fast forward a year and Roethlisberger’s retired and Hilliard wasn’t retained, replaced by Frisman Jackson. Given Smith-Schuster’s comments about likely testing free agency and he will probably at least test the free agent waters even more strongly than he did a year ago.
His market and market value is murky coming off a year in which he played just five regular season games before suffering a shoulder injury against the Denver Broncos. But he was able to make it back in record time for the Steelers’ Wild Card loss, proving his toughness and his health that will endear himself well to the 31 other clubs. The cap also increasing after the crunch of 2021 will help offset his injury-plagued season.
While there is a chance Smith-Schuster returns, it seems more likely he’ll follow Rank’s advice and sign with another team. With James Washington almost certain to go elsewhere and even Ray-Ray McCloud a pending free agent, the Steelers’ receiver room is likely to look a lot different.