Steelers Rumors: JuJu Smith-Schuster Has Interest in Joining Chiefs in Free Agency

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 25, 2022

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 19:  JuJu Smith-Schuster #19 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action against the Las Vegas Raiders on September 19, 2021 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster reportedly has interest in signing with the Kansas City Chiefs when he becomes a free agent this offseason.

According to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network, Smith-Schuster nearly signed with the Chiefs last offseason, and he is expected to be in the mix for KC again during the upcoming free-agent period.

Wilson noted that instead of signing a one-year, $8 million contract with $3 million in incentives with the Chiefs last season, Smith-Schuster signed a one-year, $8 million deal to remain with the Steelers in 2021.

Smith-Schuster appeared in just five games during the 2021 regular season because of a shoulder injury, finishing with 15 receptions for 129 yards and no touchdowns.

While it was considered a long shot for him to play at all for the remainder of the season, he managed to make it back for the Steelers' AFC Wild Card Round playoff game against the Chiefs, registering five catches for 26 yards in a loss.

Ben Roethlisberger is the only regular starting quarterback Smith-Schuster has known throughout his career, but with Big Ben likely set to retire, it may be the ideal time for the receiver to move on as well.

The 2017 second-round pick out of USC had some great moments with Roethlisberger, including setting career highs with 111 receptions for 1,426 yards in 2018.

He also set a career high with nine touchdown catches in 2020 to go along with 97 receptions for 831 yards. 

Smith-Schuster was a downfield threat who averaged 13.7 yards per reception in his first three seasons, but his game has since evolved.

With Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool playing more outside, Smith-Schuster began operating primarily out of the slot, making him a high-volume, low yards-per-catch wideout in 2020.

He was trending in that direction in 2021 as well before getting injured, matching his 2020 mark with just 8.6 yards per catch.

Given that the Chiefs have some explosive weapons in wide receivers Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle, as well as tight end Travis Kelce, quarterback Patrick Mahomes could benefit from a wideout of JuJu's ilk.

Additionally, both Pringle and Demarcus Robinson are set to become free agents this offseason, meaning Kansas City may need to replace their production.

Smith-Schuster is still just 25 years of age with plenty of football left ahead of him, and landing with an elite offense like the Chiefs could go a long way toward boosting his production and putting him in position for a big contract with Kansas City or another team in the future.