Smith-Schuster has always been set to hit free agency on March 17, and the Steelers haven’t publicly said they won’t re-sign him. But the team’s official website, of all places, may have just spoiled Smith-Schuster’s plans and left Roethlisberger very upset.
Ben Roethlisberger might not have JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2021
Ben Roethlisberger is coming back for the 2021 season, albeit at a reduced price and on a Steelers team that hasn’t reached the Super Bowl since February 2011.
Whatever Roethlisberger does next season could be without one of his favorite targets. In a recent article on the Steelers’ official website, Bob Labriola — the site’s editor — discussed receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s future with the team.
Considering the Steelers’ website is a league-owned property, Labriola’s comments are especially interesting.
“Smith-Schuster is set to become an unrestricted free agent on March 17, and despite his pronouncements on social media that he wants to continue his career with the Steelers, he’s unlikely to want to accept what the cap-strapped Steelers would be able to pay him on a new contract.”
Labriola’s comments hold far more weight than if Adam Schefter or a Steelers beat writer published the same story with the same language. The Pittsburgh Steelers run the website that Labriola writes for, even if he is free to express his own opinion.
From a certain point of view, a team official just publicly confirmed that Smith-Schuster isn’t returning, and that is bad news for Roethlisberger.
Ben Roethlisberger needs the Steelers to re-sign Smith-Schuster
At times in his four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, JuJu Smith-Schuster appeared destined for greatness.
Smith-Schuster turned 308 catches into 3,726 yards and 26 touchdowns in 58 games and 46 starts. A speedster from Southern Cal, Smith-Schuster scored two 97-yard receiving touchdowns in his first two seasons.
Although Smith-Schuster had 97 catches and nine touchdowns in 2020, he only had 831 yards and averaged 8.6 yards per reception.
Ben Roethlisberger needs the Steelers to at least make an attempt at retaining the young receiver. A Pro Bowl selection in 2018, Smith-Schuster will play most of the 2021 season at 24 years old, and he is a target who Roethlisberger has trusted for years.
Where else could JuJu Smith-Schuster play in 2021?
Ben Roethlisberger could go from throwing to JuJu Smith-Schuster to watching him star for another AFC team.
Pro Football Focus predicted the New York Jets will sign Smith-Schuster to a four-year contract worth $68 million. Elsewhere, ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky suggested the Ravens sign Smith-Schuster and pry him away from the Steelers.
Orlovsky said he believed Smith-Schuster would be a great fit in Baltimore as a No. 2 receiver.
“We know that they have ‘Hollywood’ Brown, that vertical speed that is still there, but they need a guy that Lamar [Jackson] really trusts and believes that he’s going to win on a consistent basis in man-to-man coverage. I think JuJu’s physical enough to do that.”
Smith-Schuster had not publicly commented on his future with the Steelers or about free agency as of publication.