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: How high a priority should re-signing JuJu Smith-Schuster be for the Steelers?
The NFL opens up the window today. The day on which players and their agents are formally allowed to begin talking with other teams if they are scheduled to become unrestricted (or restricted) free agents at the start of the new league year.
In other words, it’s one of the major deadlines, and precipitators of action. Since the introduction of the ‘legal tampering window’, as it’s informally known, we have seen it often kick off deals getting done for pending free agents with their original team, once they get a sense of their market, and end up re-signing before the new league year even begins.
That’s probably not going to happen with JuJu Smith-Schuster, but he’ll begin to learn what his value is in a healthy market starting today. He became an unrestricted free agent at a bad time last year with the cap hit being gutted. Now soaring over $200 million, teams are in a better position to pay up.
Even the Steelers have cap space. And they have interest in retaining him. But to what extent? At what cost? They have Diontae Johnson, and they have Chase Claypool. They are likely to draft another wide receiver.
While they want to keep Smith-Schuster, how much can they afford to pay him? While this is largely tangential, he does already count $5.6 million against the cap due to the use of void years last season on his one-year, $8 million deal, only $2.4 million of which hit the 2021 cap. Would they sign him to another deal in the same range and the same length? Would it be a multi-year deal?