Report: Smith-Schuster Told Steelers Teammates He Likely Won't Sign New Contract

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2021

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) celebrates after scoring on a 5-yard pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

JuJu Smith-Schuster has reportedly been telling Steelers teammates he is "likely to head elsewhere" in free agency. 

Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reported Smith-Schuster has been preparing teammates for his departure despite the Steelers being interested in bringing him back. The USC product, who spent his first four years in Pittsburgh, recently posted a tweet thanking the city and team for his time there.

JuJu Smith-Schuster @TeamJuJu

No matter what happens this week, if I’m back or if I’m somewhere else, just know that I will never see Pittsburgh as just 4 yrs of my life, but a part of who I am. I’ll always carry that tough, blue collar spirit for the rest of my life. I LOVE YOU PITTSBURGH #412 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾❤️❤️❤️ https://t.co/BIJCUDNbQQ

The expected wide receiver market dwindled a bit with Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin receiving the franchise tag, leaving Smith-Schuster, Kenny Golladay and Will Fuller V as the top free agents on the market. 

Smith-Schuster hauled in 97 passes for 831 yards and nine touchdowns last season as the Steelers' most reliable underneath threat. While he's failed to live up to the billing as Antonio Brown's replacement as Pittsburgh's WR1, Smith-Schuster is a viable threat in the slot who could step in immediately for a team in need of someone to move the chains.

The Las Vegas Raiders have been among the teams heavily linked to Smith-Schuster and could use him as a balance to second-year wideout Henry Ruggs, whose effectiveness is mainly in stretching the field.

Pittsburgh has been a haven of developing young wide receivers, so the offense will likely be fine in Smith-Schuster's departure. Chase Claypool emerged as one of the sport's most dynamic rookie playmakers last season and could take an increased role if Smith-Schuster leaves.