JuJu Smith-Schuster

Chiefs Finished Second For JuJu Smith-Schuster; Ravens’ Scheme Became Factor

The Ravens submitted JuJu Smith-Schuster a better offer than the Steelers did, but the former Pro Bowl wide receiver opted to stay in Pittsburgh. Baltimore was not his second choice, either.

Had Smith-Schuster not ultimately decided to stay with the Steelers, he would have joined the Chiefs. Andy Reid continued to text images of the Vince Lombardi trophy to the 24-year-old wideout, and Smith-Schuster confirmed Kansas City was his second choice.

I think, just seeing K.C. and bro, Andy Reid was just calling me and he was sending me Lombardi Trophy pictures like constantly. We had a good talk, so it would’ve been K.C. after the Steelers,” Smith-Schuster said during an appearance on the Michael Irvin Podcast (via NFL.com).

Smith-Schuster would have replaced Sammy Watkins alongside Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in the Chiefs’ historically loaded pass offense. Watkins ended up signing with the Ravens, who had issues convincing acclaimed receivers to sign this offseason. The Ravens also offered T.Y. Hilton more money than the Colts did, but the veteran wideout stayed in Indianapolis. Smith-Schuster indicated Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson-centered run scheme became an issue as he considered a possible intra-AFC North jump.

[Playing for a rival], too, and I’m curious to see how they’re going to be this year having Sammy Watkins and how they’re going to use him and throwing the ball and stuff like that,” Smith-Schuster said of the Ravens. “Lamar’s a really, a heavy run offense with the backs that he has. I just point being facts. His No. 1 target was [Mark] Andrews, who’s a tight end.”

New Ravens receivers coach Tee Martin, who coached Smith-Schuster at USC, began Baltimore’s recruitment. Jackson and John Harbaugh contacted Smith-Schuster as well. The Ravens are believed to have offered Smith-Schuster a $9MM salary with $4MM in incentives. He re-signed with the Steelers on a one-year, $8MM deal.

Tee Martin was a coach at USC who coached me, he ended up going to the Ravens and he reached out and that’s how that process started. Lamar reached out, the head coach called, Marlon Humphrey‘s hitting me up,” Smith-Schuster said. “It starts getting serious when the players start texting you and hit you up like, ‘Yo, what’s up, bro? What we doing? Come win.’ All respect to them, and it was cool. But I think with me it’s more so staying home, staying loyal. In my situation, we have a new OC, Ben’s coming back, my relationship with my receiver coach, Ike Hilliard, is amazing. You can’t beat that.”

Reprising his role in an increasingly pass-heavy Steelers offense, Smith-Schuster will have a chance to re-enter free agency in 2022. The Chiefs, who also finished second in the Trent Williams sweepstakes, are likely still on the hunt for a receiver to replace Watkins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Re-Sign JuJu Smith-Schuster

The Steelers are bringing JuJu Smith-Schuster back on a one-year deal, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The wide receiver will earn just $8MM on the team-friendly pact (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). And Pittsburgh is playing around with the structure of the deal in order to minimize the 2021 salary cap impact. Per Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, Smith-Schuster’s deal includes a $7MM signing bonus and a $1MM salary, and the team is adding four voidable years so that the cap hit this season is just $1.6MM (Twitter link).

Smith-Schuster could have made more elsewhere, as Taylor Bisciotti of NFL.com tweets. The Chiefs offered him a one-year deal with the same base salary of $8MM, plus $3MM in incentives. The Ravens made an even stronger pitch — $9MM plus $4MM in incentives. Ultimately, Smith-Schuster opted to give the Steelers a home team discount.

At the end of the day, I want to have my legacy in Pittsburgh and retire there,” Smith-Schuster said in February. “I don’t want to leave…I’m Pittsburgh for life.”

Smith-Schuster’s production tailed off over the last two seasons, putting top-of-the-market money out of his reach. Still, he drew widespread interest. In addition to the aforementioned Ravens and Chiefs, the Jets and Raiders were also connected to the youngster. The Jets wound up signing Corey Davis to a three-year, $37.5MM deal. It’s not clear if they offered a similar deal to Smith-Schuster, or if the wide receiver had interest in joining a non-contender.

Smith-Schuster, still only 24, had just 831 receiving yards last year, but there’s reason to believe that he could get back to his old form with Ben Roethlisberger back under center.

As a rookie, Smith-Schuster caught 58 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns in just 14 games. In 2018, Smith-Schuster eclipsed then-teammate Antonio Brown with 111 catches for 1,426 yards and seven scores en route to his first ever Pro Bowl nod. He’ll look to reprise those numbers on his new deal in 2021.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers, JuJu Smith-Schuster Still In Talks

The Jets want JuJu Smith-Schuster, but a return to the Steelers hasn’t been ruled out, according to NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter). The two sides are still in talks, so a deal could come together at the right price. 

Smith-Schuster’s production has tailed off over the last two seasons, but it appears that he’s still seeking top-of-the-market money. Corey Davis just agreed to a three-year, $37.5MM deal with the Jets. Curtis Samuel joined Washington for $34MM+ over three years. Nelson Agholor inked a two-year, $22MM deal with the Patriots. Smith-Schuster — who is a couple years removed from a 1,426-yard campaign — is likely looking to top all of those recent receiver contracts.

Smith-Schuster, still only 24, had just 831 receiving yards last year, but there’s reason to believe that he could get back to his old form with Ben Roethlisberger back under center.

In addition to the Jets and Steelers, the Raiders are also said to have interest in Smith-Schuster. Jon Gruden & Co. just added John Brown on a one-year contract, but there could still be room for JuJu to join 2020 first-round pick Henry Ruggs III and Hunter Renfrow in the WR group.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Eyeing JuJu Smith-Schuster

The Jets have been in talks with wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). The Steelers free agent would join the newly-signed Corey Davis in the Jets’ WR group. 

While many of this year’s top free agents have already found lucrative deals, things have been fairly quiet around Smith-Schuster. He recently said that he’d like to stay in Pittsburgh, but it’s not clear whether a return is in the works.

At the end of the day, I want to have my legacy in Pittsburgh and retire there,” Smith-Schuster said in February. “I don’t want to leave…I’m Pittsburgh for life.”

Smith-Schuster won’t turn 25 until November — it’s rare to see such a young and talented player available as an unrestricted free agent. In 2018, he was a revelation for the Steelers as he notched 1,426 receiving yards. But, this past season, he finished with just 831 yards. It’s possible that Smith-Schuster came into this week with outsized expectations, but the Jets could be willing to meet his asking price, which could be in the neighborhood of $15MM/year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

JuJu Smith-Schuster Wants To Stay With Steelers

This has been an offseason of change for the Steelers as the Ben Roethlisberger era starts to wind down, with Maurkice Pouncey retiring and several other shufflings.

One of the biggest questions Pittsburgh faces this offseason is the future of receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is set to be a free agent. Smith-Schuster has liked some tweets encouraging to sign in various places, and there has been some speculation that the USC product could want to return home to Los Angeles to play for either the Chargers or Rams. However, the young wideout made clear in recent comments to TMZ Sports that he’d prefer to stay in Pittsburgh if possible.

“At the end of the day, I want to have my legacy in Pittsburgh and retire there,” Smith-Schuster said. “I don’t want to leave.” He was asked about the Rams and Chargers, and he rebuffed the notion, saying “not right now. Until I actually get let go, other than that, I’m Pittsburgh for life.”

It sounds like if the Steelers are willing to pay him his market value, he’ll be back catching passes from Roethlisberger in 2021. Smith-Schuster is a very interesting free agency case. On the one hand his production has dropped the past two seasons, but it’s also extremely rare for a 24-year-old with his level of accomplishments to hit the open market.

In 2018 he looked like one of the top receivers in the league, racking up 1,426 yards. This past season he finished with only 831 in the same number of games as the Steelers’ passing attack lacked explosiveness.

He did still score nine touchdowns in 2020, and was competing with a host of other receivers for targets. We heard recently that the Raiders are “very interested” in signing Smith-Schuster, so there will be something of a bidding war for his services. He won’t get top of the receiver market money, but he could land something in the $15MM annually range.

Despite his comments today, it still wouldn’t be surprising if he ends up getting priced out of the Steelers’ range. The team doesn’t have the best cap situation, as they continue to work through the problems posed by Roethlisberger’s hefty contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Interested In JuJu Smith-Schuster

The Raiders are “very interested” in signing JuJu Smith-Schuster, according to John Clayton of 710 ESPN (Twitter link). The Steelers wide receiver is currently on track to reach the open market in March. 

Smith-Schuster, 25 in November, seemed on track for superstardom just a few years ago. As a rookie, Smith-Schuster caught 58 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns in just 14 games. In his last regular season game as an NFL frosh, he took a 96-yard kickoff all the way to the house and became the youngest player in NFL history to record more than 1,o00 all-purpose yards in a season.

Then came the true breakout year — 111 grabs for 1,426 yards and seven TDs and a Pro Bowl selection, helping the Steelers make up for the absence of Le’Veon Bell. The following year, Antonio Brown was shipped out, which should have set the stage for Smith-Schuster to have an even bigger season. Instead, his 2019 was marred by a knee injury and played without the services of Ben Roethlisberger.

Smith-Schuster was healthier in 2020 and bounced back somewhat, finishing with a 97/831/9 stat line. If the Raiders don’t retain Nelson Agholor, Smith-Schuster could have appeal. Of course, between Brown and Martavis Bryant, the Raiders haven’t had the best of luck with ex-Steelers WRs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Steelers Sign JuJu Smith-Schuster

Three years ago today, JuJu Smith-Schuster officially joined the Steelers by signing his rookie deal. The USC product had considerable buzz heading into the 2017 NFL Draft, but the Steelers managed to snag him in the second round, at No. 62 overall. All in all, the Steelers secured four years of his services for just $4.2MM, including a $1.2MM signing bonus.

[RELATED: Steelers Deny James Harrison’s Allegations]

Their investment paid dividends immediately. As a rookie, Smith-Schuster caught 58 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns in just 14 games. In his last regular season game as an NFL frosh, he took a 96-yard kickoff all the way to the house and became the youngest player in NFL history to record more than 1,o00 all-purpose yards in a season. He celebrated his 21st birthday in November, so, yes, Smith-Schuster could drink to that.

In 2018, Smith-Schuster took things to a whole ‘nother level, recording 111 catches for 1,426 yards and seven scores en route to his first ever Pro Bowl performance. With Le’Veon Bell staying home, Smith-Schuster was the talk of the town and the focal point of the Steelers’ offense, which didn’t exactly thrill longtime star Antonio Brown.

When Brown was shipped to the Raiders before the start of the ’19 season, Smith-Schuster became the Steelers’ unquestioned offensive superstar. Unfortunately, the Steelers were without Ben Roethlisberger for much of the year and Smith-Schuster’s year was marred by a knee injury, plus a concussion suffered in their now infamous Week 11 game against the Browns. It was a year that everyone in Pittsburgh would rather not think about.

What’s next for Smith-Schuster is anyone’s guess. He’s now set to enter the final year of that rookie pact with a modest cap number of $1.335MM. Last year, we expected the Steelers to be gearing up for a massive contract extension that would put him at or near the top of the market. Right now, Smith-Schuster’s best bet would probably be to wait things out so that he can restore his value. The Steelers might not be in a huge rush either – they’ll want to see how Smith-Schuster does before making a monster commitment and, even if he reprises his ’18 season, they’ll have the franchise tag at their disposal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert On Contract Status, Ben Roethlisberger

Last summer, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert indicated he did not want to enter into a multi-year extension with the team, as he prefers to take things on a year-to-year basis. Earlier this month, the 63-year-old signed another one-year contract with the club to remain in his general manager post through the 2020 campaign.

But in a meeting with Steelers beat writers today, Colbert indicated he is not thinking about quitting anytime soon. “As long as the Rooneys and the Pittsburgh Steelers want me to be a part of this organization and it’s a good thing for our family, we’ll be here,” Colbert said. “I’m not looking to ever go anywhere else again as long as the Rooneys and the Steelers are interested in me” (Twitter link via Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com).

So while Colbert may prefer the flexibility that his one-year extensions afford him, it sounds as if he will continue to lead the Pittsburgh front office for as long as the team wants him to and for as long as his personal life permits. And for good reason. Colbert joined the Steelers in 2000, was promoted from director of football operations to GM in 2010, and has helped build two Super Bowl-winning teams and 12 playoff squads over the years.

In his conversation, Colbert also discussed the status of QB Ben Roethlisberger. We heard in December that Big Ben is expected to make a full recovery from surgery to reattach three tendons in his right arm, and Colbert said today that he believes Roethlisberger’s rehab is going in the right direction (Twitter link via Pryor). The veteran signal-caller has a checkup in Los Angeles on February 21.

Colbert further indicated that the injuries that plagued JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, and Vance McDonald last year would not impact their long-term availability (Twitter link via Pryor). And in other Steelers news, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets that the Steelers are expected to hire a new WR coach any day now. The team is deciding between Jerricho Cotchery and Bryan McClendon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers’ Owner On JuJu Smith-Schuster

Things didn’t go according to plan for the Steelers or JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2019. After parting ways with Antonio Brown, the wide receiver seemed poised for a monster season and a brand new contract to reflect his expected status as one of the league’s premier wide receivers. That didn’t happen and Steelers owner Art Rooney II says he isn’t in any rush to talk extension.

Well again, it was a tough season to evaluate with the different quarterbacks and some of JuJu’s injuries so it’s a tough season to evaluate from a lot of different standpoints,” Rooney said (via Jacob Klinger of PennLive.com). “Obviously we still think highly of JuJu and still think he’s going to be an outstanding player in the league moving forward and we will address the contract situation when it’s appropriate.”

In 2019, Smith-Schuster caught just 42 passes for 552 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games. Smith-Schuster’s rookie deal is set to expire after the 2020 season and he might have to wait until then to discuss a new deal with the Steelers.

Of course, the loss of Ben Roethlisberger early in the season held back Smith-Schuster and the Steelers offense on the whole. That is to say, the drop-off in his production is not entirely his fault. Still, the Steelers seem open to a wait-and-see approach with the 23-year-old (24 in November).

When the Steelers have Big Ben back in action next season, they’ll hope to see Smith-Schuster return to form. In 2018, the former second-round pick broke out with 111 catches for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns en route to his first Pro Bowl appearance.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Rumors: Garrett, Glenn, Steelers

While different accounts have surfaced about how the brawl started, the NFL has issued final rulings on the central cogs in the Browns-Steelers melee. One interesting fallout item: Myles Garrett‘s appeal being denied will leave him on his own for a while. The Browns are not permitted to communicate with the star defensive end during his suspension, Freddie Kitchens confirmed (via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, on Twitter). This sort of banishment is usually associated with players battling bans for off-field conduct, but Garrett’s case is certainly unique. This could prove interesting if the Browns make Kitchens a one-and-done coach. Garrett would not be permitted to discuss a new scheme with the team. With NFL appeals officer James Thrash denying the former No. 1 overall pick’s case at avoiding an indefinite suspension, Garrett must apply for reinstatement in the 2020 offseason.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Cordy Glenn will not only make his 2019 debut Sunday, but the Bengals are preparing to slot the eighth-year back in as their left tackle starter, Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes. This will be a pivotal stretch for Glenn, who battled a concussion for several weeks before a contentious period with the Bengals resulted in the 30-year-old lineman’s one-game suspension. The Bengals were ready to shift Glenn to left guard, making room for first-rounder Jonah Williams, but the latter’s offseason injury nixed that. Glenn, who will replace John Jerry at left tackle, has no guaranteed money left on his deal. The Bills extension he signed in 2016 runs through 2020, but the Bengals could save $9.25MM by releasing him next year.
  • A.J. Green will not join Glenn in uniform against the Steelers. The ninth-year wideout will miss his 11th game of the season and 15th straight. Green is looking at a missed season and is set to profile as one of the more interesting free agents in recent years. The 31-year-old receiver has not practice since Nov. 4.
  • The Steelers have officially ruled out JuJu Smith-Schuster out for Week 12, but the team did see quick progress from fellow wideout starter Diontae Johnson. The rookie cleared concussion protocol and is not listed on Pittsburgh’s injury report. He and James Washington will go into Cincinnati as Mason Rudolph‘s top targets.
  • Admitting the team gambled by not taking Lamar Jackson with its first 2018 draft pick, Ravens GM Eric DeCosta discussed the process that led them to draft the MVP candidate at No. 32 overall last year.