Smith-Schuster was taken in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Steelers, who are well known for their ability to identify and develop wide receiver talent. He broke out in a huge way in his second year, catching 111 passes for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018.
He struggled to maintain that production with Ben Roethlisberger out in 2019. This year, he flew under the radar a bit, catching 97 passes for 831 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns.
Moments ago, it was reported that Smith-Schuster will return for another year with the Steelers. He has signed a one-year, $8 million deal to remain with the team.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 19, 2021
While the wide receiver market hasn’t been great this year, he had some other very intriguing options. Per Taylor Bisciotti of the NFL Network, JuJu Smith-Schuster turned down bigger offers from both the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs, which had more guaranteed money and/or potential incentives that could have driven the deal into eight-digit range.
Sources tell me these were the other offers
KC 8 mill with 3 mill incentives
Steelers 8 mill
Baltimore 9 mill 4 incentives
— Taylor Bisciotti (@TaylorBisciotti) March 19, 2021
The #Steelers added $500k to their final offer to JuJu Smith-Schuster to push it over the finish line, source says. Went from $7.5 million to $8 million and it got done.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 19, 2021
Instead, he’ll prove that he’s still a top-flight wide receiver, and team back up with Roethlisberger, who is also returning for another go-around with the Steelers.
Those other options are as intriguing as it gets. The Ravens, a hated rival of the Pittsburgh Steelers, have been looking to add a top flight receiver for former MVP Lamar Jackson. With Kansas City, he could have joined a Super Bowl favorite, and played alongside Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce, adding to one of the most dangerous offenses in NFL history.
At the same time, you have to respect someone enjoying where he is and trying to build on that situation. It doesn’t hurt that Juju Smith-Schuster will hit free agency again in a year, with the potential for a big salary cap spike after the NFL’s recent huge media rights deal.
Update: Adam Schefter says the Philadelphia Eagles were also a potential spot for JuJu Smith-Schuster.
JuJu Smith-Schuster also turned down more money on a multi-year deal from the Eagles than he took to return to the Steelers, per source. The Eagles’ were a secret suitor. But Smith-Schuster loved Pittsburgh and its fans too much to leave. https://t.co/X8gitZYxwd
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 19, 2021
He will enter his fifth year with the Steelers this fall.