The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.
This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others.
Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor is heading into free agency, as is Trai Turner.
These are the sorts of topics among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Did the Steelers ever offer JuJu Smith-Schuster a contract or indicate any interest in retaining him?
The Steelers lost 60 percent of the wide receiver room from their initial 53-man roster that opened the 2021 season so far in free agency, and it all happened within a span of 24 hours. Ray-Ray McCloud was somehow the first to exit, going to the San Francisco 49ers. James Washington found a deal with the Dallas Cowboys.
And then JuJu Smith-Schuster hooked up with the Kansas City Chiefs, signing a one-year deal that is about two-thirds based purely on incentives. It was not a very lucrative contract at all, with a base value of under $4 million.
Surely, if the Steelers were interested in keeping Smith-Schuster, they could have cobbled something together. The fact that they almost always avoid the use of incentives outside of the occasional quarterback or outside free agent deal would have been a deterrent to matching a deal like Kansas City’s, but his market was clearly soft enough that they could have at least bid on him.
So, did they? Smith-Schuster’s mother seemed to imply that they did not, or, at least, suggested that they were not willing to make a competitive offer. After he signed, there were some indicating that the Steelers did not have any interest in retaining him, but that’s an easy thing to say after the fact, so it’s impossible to gauge how much merit there is in such claims.
Smith-Schuster re-signed with the Steelers last season on a one-year, $8 million deal. He caught 15 passes for 129 yards and scored a rushing touchdown before suffering a shoulder injury in the fifth game of the regular season. He rehabbed enough to be ready for the postseason, but it proved to be a short run for the Steelers.