Currently in the final year of his contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers, could the young wide receiver be on his way out the door in 2021?
In his first opportunity to be the definitive No. 1 wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, things didn’t exactly go according to plan for JuJu Smith-Schuster last season.
Smith-Schuster appeared in 12 games for the Steelers last year, but he only managed to haul in 42 passes for 552 yards and three touchdowns. Much lower numbers than most were anticipating from the young receiver heading into the 2019 season.
However, Smith-Schuster also dealt with multiple injuries last year and Pittsburgh’s quarterback situation wasn’t exactly ideal either. Still, the young receiver is currently in the final year of his contract with the Steelers and his future with the team is unknown.
Pittsburgh would probably like to keep him around past 2020, especially if he is able to return to the dynamic playmaker he was during his first two seasons with the team. But the Steelers aren’t likely to shell out big money to keep him on the roster either.
Interestingly enough, The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette recently predicted that Pittsburgh won’t extend Smith-Schuster before the start of next season and they will let him hit the free-agent market in 2021.
Now this is just a prediction, but Bouchette referenced the Steelers’ history of letting talented, young receivers hit free agency as a big reason for his thoughts regarding Smith-Schuster’s future. Could Pittsburgh continue this trend in 2021?
If the Steelers are seriously considering Smith-Schuster walk after next season, then selecting a receiver in this year’s NFL Draft needs to be a top priority. Otherwise, Pittsburgh could be left with a bunch of unproven pass-catchers in 2021.
If the Steelers decide to not give Smith-Schuster an extension before next season, a number of factors will determine if his tenure with the team will continue past 2020.
Pittsburgh will be watching closely to see if his numbers get back to being among the best in the league and if any of their other young receivers can step up and emerge as a top weapon.
A lot is riding on the upcoming season for Smith-Schuster. Not only is his future with Pittsburgh on the line, but his chance of becoming a top receiver in the NFL could disappear with another disappointing campaign in 2020.