JuJu Smith-Schuster Wants To Stay With Steelers

This has been an offseason of change for the Steelers as the Ben Roethlisberger era starts to wind down, with Maurkice Pouncey retiring and several other shufflings.

One of the biggest questions Pittsburgh faces this offseason is the future of receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is set to be a free agent.┬áSmith-Schuster has liked some tweets encouraging to sign in various places, and there has been some speculation that the USC product could want to return home to Los Angeles to play for either the Chargers or Rams. However, the young wideout made clear in recent comments to TMZ Sports that he’d prefer to stay in Pittsburgh if possible.

“At the end of the day, I want to have my legacy in Pittsburgh and retire there,” Smith-Schuster said. “I don’t want to leave.” He was asked about the Rams and Chargers, and he rebuffed the notion, saying “not right now. Until I actually get let go, other than that, I’m Pittsburgh for life.”

It sounds like if the Steelers are willing to pay him his market value, he’ll be back catching passes from Roethlisberger in 2021.┬áSmith-Schuster is a very interesting free agency case. On the one hand his production has dropped the past two seasons, but it’s also extremely rare for a 24-year-old with his level of accomplishments to hit the open market.

In 2018 he looked like one of the top receivers in the league, racking up 1,426 yards. This past season he finished with only 831 in the same number of games as the Steelers’ passing attack lacked explosiveness.

He did still score nine touchdowns in 2020, and was competing with a host of other receivers for targets. We heard recently that the Raiders are “very interested” in signing Smith-Schuster, so there will be something of a bidding war for his services. He won’t get top of the receiver market money, but he could land something in the $15MM annually range.

Despite his comments today, it still wouldn’t be surprising if he ends up getting priced out of the Steelers’ range. The team doesn’t have the best cap situation, as they continue to work through the problems posed by Roethlisberger’s hefty contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mike Tomlin Has COVID-19

Unfortunate news to pass along, as Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has been diagnosed with COVID-19, sources told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Needless to say, Tomlin is now away from the facility as the team gets ready for free agency and draft prep. It sounds like there may have been something of an outbreak on the staff, as Rapoport notes that the team confirmed numerous personnel execs and coaches were sent home after multiple positive tests came up.

One of those positives was Tomlin, who despite having coached Pittsburgh for the past 14 seasons is still on the younger side of NFL coaches at 48. The pandemic wreaked havoc on the league all season, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change in the offseason even without games being played.

With almost everything related to the draft and free agency virtual these days anyway, this hopefully shouldn’t hinder the Steelers’ process too much. All of us here at PFR wish Tomlin a full and speedy recovery.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.