NFL

JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Big Payday Hinges on Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster are coming off a forgettable 2019 season that was ravaged by injuries. Despite that, it saw the Pittsburgh Steelers fall just short of reaching the playoffs. With that in mind, Smith-Schuster is in line to receive a new deal as his rookie contract is coming to a close. That places significant importance on Roethlisberger’s role in it all.

JuJu Smith-Schuster’s contract situation

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Since entering the league, JuJu Smith-Schuster has been a source of consistency for the Steelers. He has worked his way into being a cornerstone piece to their offense.

That has put him in line to receive a significant contract extension from Pittsburgh as he’s in the final year of his four-year, $.1 million rookie deal. According to Brooke Pryor of ESPN, Smith-Schuster discussed his contractual status on Monday, voicing that he’s not going to hold out for a new contract.

“At the end of the day, I’m just here to play ball,” Smith-Schuster said on a Zoom call Monday morning. “I’m not going to be the kind of guy that sits out and waits, regardless if there’s a contract or not.”

Smith-Schuster is coming off a rough 2019 season that was profoundly impacted by health issues and Ben Roethlisberger’s absence due to his elbow injury. The former Pro Bowler has a chance to push forward and earn a significant extension with his play in 2020, and that could see Roethlisberger play a massive part in that.

Ben Roethlisberger’s comeback could make significant impact

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JuJu Smith-Schuster is looking to put his struggles in the 2019 season behind, which is also the case for Ben Roethlisberger.

The star quarterback saw his year end after one game after suffering an elbow injury in Week 1 action. His absence was greatly felt by the Steelers’ offense, which his backups Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges struggled to generate enough offense. Among those significantly impacted was Smith-Schuster as he produced far below his typical level with 42 receptions for 552 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

A health Roethlisberger presents Smith-Schuster the chance to get back on track to his breakout 2018 season that saw him record 111 catches for 1,426 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Granted, the departure of Antonio Brown will impact that considerably, but it’s his opportunity to shine as a true No.1 wide receiver.

His connection with Roethlisberger will be vital in getting him paid as he wants as a top-tier wideout in the game. It’s on his shoulders to make the most of the situation ahead.

Steelers’ outlook for 2020 season

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Injuries ravaged the Steelers to their offense in the 2019 season but nearly made the playoffs with a wildcard berth.

It was their stellar defense that guided the charge as they finished as one of the top units in the league. The acquisition of Pro Bowl safety Minkah Fitzpatrick helped take their defense to the next level, which guided them to a few more wins than their lackluster offense would have generated.

Ben Roethlisberger’s return will bring forth much-needed stability and production under center. Meanwhile, the presence of both JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner should go a long way in having a much more explosive offense in 2020. The Steelers will have the task of trying to deal with the Baltimore Ravens, who have become one of the top teams in the league behind Lamar Jackson.

A pathway to the playoffs is possible this upcoming campaign, especially with an additional postseason spot. The pieces are in place for Pittsburgh to be back in the mix of relevancy in the AFC.