JuJu Smith-Schuster Not 'The Kind of Guy' to Hold Out for New Steelers Contract

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistAugust 17, 2020

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) tries to avoid Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey (44) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Don Wright/Associated Press

Pittsburgh Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is heading into the final year of his rookie contract in 2020, but he isn't concerned about his future with the team.

"At the end of the day, I'm just here to play ball," Smith-Schuster told reporters Monday. "I'm not going to be the kind of guy that sits out and waits, regardless if there's a contract or not."

The 2017 second-round pick is coming off a disappointing year where he totaled just 42 catches for 552 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games. That's a steep drop from 2018 when he had 111 catches for 1,426 yards and seven scores on his way to his first Pro Bowl selection.

Smith-Schuster was limited by a knee injury in 2019. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's absence for most of the year also hurt the receiver's numbers with backups Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges inconsistent under center.

A bounce-back year in 2020 could help the 23-year-old rebuild his stock and earn a bigger contract.

Pittsburgh could have some tough decisions to make with key players like running back James Conner, offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, defensive tackle Cameron Heyward and linebacker Bud Dupree set to hit free agency after the season.

Dupree is playing the year on the franchise tag after the Steelers were unable to agree to a long-term deal with the pass-rusher.

According to Spotrac, Pittsburgh is already $14.8 million over the projected cap for 2021.

Considering the Steelers have been hurt by holdouts in the past—notably, Le'Veon Bell missed the entire 2018 season—having Smith-Schuster on the field will be a positive regardless of his future status.