Did JuJu Smith-Schuster subtly wave goodbye to Steelers fans?
By Tommy Jaggi
JuJu Smith-Schuster has repeatedly expressed his love for the city of Pittsburgh, but did the Steelers wide receiver subtly say his goodbye to fans?
The Pittsburgh Steelers have some big decisions to make during the offseason, For the first time in 18 years, they need to find a new franchise quarterback and their long-time general manager will be stepping down following the 2022 NFL Draft.
Sadly, some decisions are out of their control. The Steelers have multiple players who are set to hit the market and unless they use the pricey franchise tag, they cannot be retained unless by choice.
One of those players is fan-favorite, JuJu Smith-Schuster. The former 2018 Pro Bowler has now had a string of three straight unspectacular seasons. After a slump in 2020, JuJu was an unrestricted free agent and was free to sign with any organization. Despite slightly better offers from the Chiefs and Ravens, Smith-Schuster elected to come back to Pittsburgh for one more season.
This was probably a mistake. While we couldn’t have predicted a shoulder injury that would have kept him off the field for three months, JuJu was on the pace for just 438 receiving yards in a 17-game season before landing on IR, via Pro Football Reference.
Recently, the popular wide receiver posted a picture of his car on social media with the caption, “It’s been real Pitt!”
Though some have brushed this aside — claiming that he’s simply heading back to Los Angeles for the offseason — his intentions with his post are certainly worth questioning. After all, this is a player whose production and value have crashed over the past three years in Pittsburgh.
Does JuJu intend to leave the Steelers?
For what it’s worth, I really couldn’t blame JuJu one bit if he decided to leave Pittsburgh for a different team during free agency. He gave the Steelers all he had on his rookie contract, and despite a down year with an aging Ben Roethlisberger in 2020, elected to come back for one more year.
Not knowing how the quarterback situation is going to be in Pittsburgh, I think it would be a great move for his career to join a team that doesn’t have so many question marks on the offensive side of the ball. If the offer still stands with Kansas City, JuJu could be a terrific slot option with Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman taking the top of the defense.
Wherever JuJu decides to go, he probably will never be peppered with targets quite like he was in 2018 when he received 166 looks in the passing game. However, that doesn’t mean that he could turn into a very solid number two receiver for a good football team.
Fans shouldn’t be upset with JuJu Smith-Schuster if this is the end for him in Pittsburgh, and they have to understand that he’s doing what’s best for his career. The Steelers will find a way to make it work without him if he decides to walk away in free agency.