Steelers Website: Smith-Schuster 'Unlikely to Want to Accept' PIT Contract OfferMarch 7, 2021
It's looking increasingly like JuJu Smith-Schuster's career in Pittsburgh is over.
Bob Labriola of the team's official site wrote Smith-Schuster is "unlikely to want to accept" a contract from the Steelers because of the team's cap constraints. Pittsburgh is currently just $3.6 million under the projected cap for 2021.
Smith-Schuster will be part of a loaded wide receiver free-agent crop that also includes Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson II, Kenny Golladay and Will Fuller V. Godwin and Robinson may wind up receiving the franchise tag from their current teams, which would leave Golladay, Fuller and Smith-Schuster as the top names on the market.
While Smith-Schuster has largely failed in taking over the top spot in the Steelers' wideout depth chart, he's a wildly talented slot receiver who could benefit from returning to a WR2 spot. Smith-Schuster hauled in 97 passes for 831 yards and nine touchdowns last season, emerging as Ben Roethlisberger's favorite underneath target but struggling to make big plays.
Pro Football Focus gave Smith-Schuster an overall grade of 68.2 for the 2020 season. Despite skepticism about his status with the franchise, the USC product remains publicly open to returning. Smith-Schuster posted "let's talk" on Instagram last week following Ben Roethlisberger's contract restructuring and said last month that he would "love" to stay in Pittsburgh.
"I do want to play for a team that competes for the Super Bowl every year," Smith-Schuster told the Yinzhers Podcast. "That's in the playoffs. Obviously, the Steelers are that. I do want to play for a great quarterback, not knowing what Ben's going to do. I do want to be paid a reasonable price for what I'm worth.
"In all consideration, I would love to stay with the Steelers. I would love to stay with them, but as of right now, we're just kind of up in the air, waiting."
As it stands, the likeliest scenario remains a team wanting Smith-Schuster enough to entice him away from the only NFL home he's known.