4 reasons swapping Steven Nelson for JuJu Smith-Schuster was a bad move for Steelers

Steven Nelson #22 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Steven Nelson #22 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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The Steelers recently announced that JuJu Smith-Schuster will be returning to Pittsburgh in 2021, but it’s going to come at the cost of Steven Nelson.

Steelers media was blown away on Friday afternoon after it was announced that wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster would be returning to Pittsburgh for the 2021 season. After reportedly receiving offers from other teams (including the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs), JuJu decided to return to the team that drafted him for at least one more season.

On paper, this deal looks terrific for the Steelers, as they signed their former Pro Bowl receiver to a one-year, $8 million deal. In comparison to what players like Nelson Agholor and Curtis Samuel went for on the market, this seems like a steal.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t come without a trade-off. In order to get JuJu under contract, Pittsburgh will either trade or cut cornerback Steven Nelson to make up the difference in cap space. Here are four reasons why swapping JuJu for Nelson could prove to be the wrong move by the Steelers:

Steelers have worse depth at cornerback than they do at receiver

I’m not complaining about JuJu’s contract number at all, and I give him credit for reportedly taking a little less money to stay in Pittsburgh this year, but one has to question what the Steelers were thinking with this. After Mike Hilton already walked in free agency, Pittsburgh’s willingness to cut or trade their starting right cornerback is mindblowing.

Cameron Sutton has re-signed with the team this offseason and is projected to slide into Hilton’s role as the nickel cornerback, but now what does Pittsburgh do? Do they play Sutton outside and force a player like James Pierre to slide into a nickel role? James Washington was a quality football player last year who didn’t see the field enough, and the Steelers still would have had three capable receivers without Smith-Schuster. It clearly looks like there is worse depth at cornerback than receiver, so the decision to bring back JuJu and move Nelson is a bit interesting.