JuJu Smith-Schuster is no exception to how Steelers do business
By Tommy Jaggi
The Steelers have never been a team to hand out many second contracts to receivers. Here’s why JuJu Smith-Schuster is no exception to the mold.
Just like there was a debate as to whether or not Ben Roethlisberger should have been able to return to the Steelers for the 2021 season, you will find that fans everywhere are split on what they want Pittsburgh to do with wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster. JuJu has been a very good football player and is clearly a fan favorite since joining the team as a second-round pick back in 2017.
After two thoroughly impressive seasons in the NFL to start his career, Smith-Schuster seemed to be moving at a record pace. However, when the Steelers were forced to cut ties with Antonio Brown, JuJu’s upward trend did not continue. While he is still deemed a reliable football player, most fans would agree that he’s not that ‘number one’ guy like Brown was for the team, and he can too easily be taken out of games.
Despite earning 1,426 yards in his 2018 season, Smith-Schuster plummeted back down to earth over the past two seasons – recording just 1,383 yards over his last two seasons (28 games), according to Pro Football Reference. He hasn’t looked like the same player since drawing more coverage, and his statistical production and efficiency have really taken a hit.
Steelers should not sign JuJu to an extension
While JuJu is no doubt still a quality NFL receiver, it’s extremely hard to justify giving him the money that he could command this offseason – which according to Spotrac.com is in the tune of $16 million per season. Pittsburgh has let a lot of quality receivers walk over the years and it somehow always manages to turn out:
Since even before Kevin Colbert was the general manager of the Steelers, Pittsburgh has always had a philosophy they lived by when it comes to the wide receiver position: continually draft receivers early and only pay the elite of the elite. They held true to this through the years. In fact, of all of the impressive receivers listed above, only Hines Ward and Antonio Brown made it past their rookie contracts with the team. These two players both turned out to be borderline Hall of Fame talents.
The rest – including Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, and Emmanuel Sanders – were not even offered second contracts (at least nothing that was enticing enough to keep them around. JuJu Smith-Schuster is no exception to the mold. He’s certainly closer to the Burress/Holmes/Wallance/Sanders-level of player than to Ward or Brown.
JuJu is clearly a good NFL receiver, but that shouldn’t be enough for the Steelers to stray from their trend and let him sign elsewhere this offseason. This system has a way of working itself out, and something tells me we will be pleasantly surprised with the next man up – just like we always are.