In an unexpected turn of events, wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster will continue playing football in Pittsburgh. The 24-year-old player confirmed the news on social media on Friday.
The Steelers allowed Smith-Schuster to hit the free agency this offseason, and reports from within the organization indicated that they already made peace with his exit. But the player’s willingness to take less money to stay ended up changing the team’s course.
Smith-Schuster had an underwhelming 2020 campaign, managing 97 catches for 831 yards and nine touchdowns as the Steelers No. 1 receiver. Despite this, he received a lot of interest in free agency and reportedly had strong offers from the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, and Philadelphia Eagles.
The Ravens, who are the Steelers’ divisional rivals, offered Smith-Schuster contract that could earn him $13 million ($9 million guaranteed and $4 million in incentives) in 2021, while the Chiefs were willing to go up to $8 million in guarantees and add $3 million in incentives for one year. The Eagles, on the other hand, offered a multi-year agreement.
Pittsburgh ended up offering the least money compared to all other teams, putting $7.5 million on the table at first and then increasing the bid to $8 million. This was enough, however, as Smith-Schuster didn’t mind taking several million less to make another run with Ben Roethlisberger.
Smith-Schuster caught 308 passes for 3,726 yards and 27 touchdowns since becoming the Steelers’ second-round pick in 2017.