Steelers News

JuJu Smith-Schuster Got Recruited By Chiefs’ Chris Jones After Steelers’ 2021 Loss: ‘Come Over Here And Get You One’

Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has only been out of the city for 11 months, but he’s already one ring richer. He just helped the Kansas City Chiefs become world champions for the second time since 2019 and is the latest former Steelers receiver to win the Super Bowl after leaving in free agency (or other means).

It didn’t come out of nowhere, of course. He was open about strongly considering signing with the Chiefs in 2021 when he decided to re-sign with the Steelers one a one year deal. When Kansas City upped its offer this past offseason with incentives, however, he was ready to go.

And they were recruiting. During a postgame interview on the NFL Network with Emmanuel Sanders and Maurice Jones-Drew, he told a story of his last game as a Steeler—the 2021 Wildcard Round loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City.

You know what’s crazy? I played my last game [as a Steeler] in KC, and I lost, and before I walked off the field, [Chiefs defensive lineman] Chris Jones was like, ‘Hey, come over here and get you one’”, Smith-Schuster said. ‘One’, of course, being a championship. “I took that to heart. I was like, ‘Okay, let me look at my options’”.

It worked out pretty well, as you saw last night. And he was jubilant after the game in a separate interview as the confetti fell with Pete Schrager for FS1. “This is unreal!”, he shouted. “This is what I came here to chase, and dreams turned into reality, man”.

Smith-Schuster played in 16 games for the Chiefs this season, catching 78 passes for 933 yards and three touchdowns. He only had three catches for 36 yards in the first round of the postseason, but finished the Super Bowl with seven grabs, many of them key plays in the second half, for 53 yards. He was also the target on a ‘controversial’ defensive holding call in the final minutes of the game.

A second-round draft pick, 62nd overall, out of USC in 2017, he was a rising star from the outset in Pittsburgh. He set a new team rookie record with 917 receiving yards on 58 receptions with seven touchdowns. Then he broke out a year later with 111 catches for 1426 yards and another seven scores.

He seemed destined at the time to be the heir apparent as the next great Steelers receiver, but fate had other plans. That was the 2019 season in which Ben Roethlisberger’s throwing elbow disintegrated into nothingness. Smith-Schuster himself also missed four games with a knee injury that has seemingly had lingering implications since then.

He rebounded in 2020 to some extent with a career-high nine touchdowns, but his efficiency numbers were low, largely as a byproduct of how the Steelers were using him. He entered a deflated free agency market the following offseason due to the pandemic’s ravaging of the leaguewide salary cap, which likely influenced his re-signing with the Steelers as well.

After missing most of the 2021 season due to injury, he needed to take a one-year prove-it deal. The Chiefs’ offer gave him the most upside with a series of incentives, which they added to as a show of good faith prior to the start of the regular season. I believe he earned all of them, or will be paid out for all of them.

But he is due to hit the open market yet again for the third year in a row. How much are the Chiefs willing to pay him to keep him in 2023 and beyond? He’s still just 26 years old and his birthday is in November.

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