Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: Though it was a nice little moment that Smith-Schuster was able to return for the postseason from what was assumed to be a season-ending shoulder surgery, it goes without saying that he in no way has improved his market value from last season, which resulted in him settling on a one-year contract to return to Pittsburgh.
JuJu Smith-Schuster will get his second stab at the open market in as many years a couple of weeks from now. But who can say that he is better-positioned for a payday than he was last time? While his statistics from 2020 were not the height of efficiency, he did have a career-high nine touchdowns, with nearly 100 receptions.
His four-year body of work, which was two full seasons removed from a Pro Bowl-quality year, resulted in three or four outside contract offers, almost all of them one-year deals that did not rise significantly above the $8 million that the Steelers offered, and relied on incentives.
Now he’s coming off a season in which he played in five games, catching only 15 of 28 passes for 129 yards, his only score on the season being a rushing touchdown. He has not had much health for the past three years now.
While he is still 25 years old and has not had good quarterback play since his Pro Bowl year in 2018, it’s quite a lot to ask teams to look back to your tape from three years ago and have them convinced that that is the guy they’re signing up for.
Since the salary cap is much healthier this year than it was a year ago, there is still a fair chance that he can get a decent contract from a team that believes they are only a couple of pieces away with a strong passing game, but he absolutely did not achieve what he intended to by coming back to Pittsburgh for one year—even if that largely was not his fault, due to health.