Juju Smith-Schuster Tells Steelers Teammates Free Agency Plans
By Jason Hall
March 15, 2021
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster may have already decided his NFL future ahead of his upcoming free agency.
NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reports Smith-Schuster told Steelers teammates that he's likely to sign with another team.
Last week, Sports Illustrated host Kaitlin O'Toole shared a poll on her Instagram story asking "Will Juju stay in Pittsburgh?" with the options of "I hope so" or "that's a negative," in relation to his impending free agency.
Smith-Schuster, who would obviously know the actual answer, appears to be among the fist five thousand participants who chose "that's a negative."
Smith-Schuster is among 21 players currently on the Steelers' roster set to hit free agency on March 17.
Prior to the Instagram poll, the 24-year-old had publicly expressed his interest in staying with the Steelers, but would be looking for the best deal available.
"At the end of the day, I want to have my legacy in Pittsburgh and retire there," Smith-Schuster told TMZ Sports last month. "I don't want to leave."
Pittsburgh recently had its cap lowered by $15 million after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger agreed to a restructured contract last week, dropping his salary from $19 million to $14 million in the final year of the deal.
Last month, Smith-Schuster told the Yinzhers Podcast that he wants to play for a contender in 2020 and within the best situation for him to succeed, which will rely heavily on how much cap space the Steelers have during negotiations and Roethlisberger's decision to return for his 18th season.
"I do want to play for a team that competes for the Super Bowl every year," Smith-Schuster said. "That's in the playoffs. Obviously, the Steelers are that. I do want to play for a great quarterback, not knowing what Ben's going to do. I do want to be paid a reasonable price for what I'm worth.
"In all consideration, I would love to stay with the Steelers. I would love to stay with them, but as of right now, we're just kind of up in the air, waiting."
Smith-Schuster also told FOX Sports Radio it "means a lot" that Roethlisberger would be willing to re-negotiate his current contract to free up cap space, providing the Steelers with more money to sign other players, during an interview in February prior to the new deal.
The 24-year-old said he'd "love to play with Ben for his time here" prior to the quarterback's decision to return.
Smith-Schuster also said he "would love to come back" to Pittsburgh, but said he wants to be on the team that provides him the best opportunity to win while also looking out for his best interests financially.
“I’m always about winning,” Smith-Schuster told Doug Gotlieb via FOX Sports Radio. “I want to be on a team that is fighting and competing for the playoffs every year. As far as the business side and the money, I want to be paid for what I am worth. Obviously for what I do for the team particularly.”
Smith-Schuster told FOX Sports Radio he is prepared for the offseason and seems to be planning ahead, confirming there are "some teams" he is interested in.
“When you’re playing chess, you’re thinking four or five moves ahead and I have some teams in mind,” Smith-Schuster said.
Photo: Getty Images