By: Sean McGeown, @seanpmcgeown
The 2020 NFL season is fast approaching, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are training and preparing for week 1 along with the rest of the league. As everyone is anticipating the kickoff of the new season, players on the Steelers roster are being asked how they feel knowing this could be the last year they suit up in the black and gold. Among those players is wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster. When asked about his uncertain future in Pittsburgh, the young receiver had this to say:
“At the end of the day, I’m just here to play ball…I’m not going to be the kind of guy who sits out and waits, regardless if there’s a contract or not.”
This is good news for the Steelers and their fans. It shows Smith-Schuster’s attitude and character. He is committed to the team and winning a championship in 2020. The Steelers are no strangers to holdouts. Back in 2018, running back Le’veon Bell held out and ultimately missed the entire 2018 season. His attendance was a point of interest all season that was definitely a distraction in the locker room. The fact that Smith-Schuster is avoiding bringing that kind of attention to the team is definitely a positive for them as a whole and will allow them to focus on bringing a Lombardi trophy back to Pittsburgh.
As good as this is, it’s not that the question of worrying about the contract is unwarranted. The Steelers are already in a tight cap space situation as it stands. Just this off-season, multiple contracts were renegotiated to sign some free agents and the rookie class. There’s not a lot of money to go around, and Smith-Schuster isn’t the only one who’s current contract ends after this season. Cameron Heyward, Bud Dupree, and James Conner are all free agents after this season just to name a few, and rising superstar TJ Watt is going to need some money in his pocket sooner rather than later.
Along with all these mouths to feed, the current projected cap is predicted to be lower than expected due to loss of revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic. All of this mixed together definitely leaves us wondering how Pittsburgh will be able to afford all of this talent. Not to mention the Steelers currently have a lot of intriguing young talent in their wide receiver corps between Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and rookie Chase Claypool. Johnson and Washington both stepped up big time last year, especially when Smith-Schuster was unavailable, and Claypool’s size and speed are raising eyebrows already. He is valuable to the room no doubt, but with all this rising talent, he unfortunately may not be a necessity.
As of right now he is the clear cut number 1, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target going into the season, which may bode well for him when it comes time for a new contract. He is in line for a bounce back year after a disappointing and injury plagued 2019 campaign that saw him catch 42 balls for 552 yards and 3 touchdowns. He was also without Roethlisberger for almost the whole season. With himself and his starting quarterback healthy again, his chances of getting back to his usual form are definitely looking good, and if he keeps focusing on his game, he could very well have a season that makes it hard not to offer him a big contract.
What do you think, Steeler Nation? Will Smith-Schuster still be in Pittsburgh after this season? Let us know in the comment section on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!