Ben says he was in 'JuJu's ear and Coach Tomlin's ear' during Smith-Schuster's free agency process
(Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images)
Ben Roethlisberger spoke with the media for the first time this offseason after today's OTAs practice, so there was a lot of ground to cover. One of the topics that the future Hall of Famer addressed was JuJu Smith-Schuster re-signing with the Steelers on a one-year deal back in March.
The market was depressed for wide receivers in free agency due to the salary cap being down around $16 million because of lost revenue related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and teams weren't really willing to dish out a bunch of money at the receiver position. Smith-Schuster got offered more money by the Chiefs and Ravens on one-year deals as well, but the USC product decided to run it back with the Steelers and Roethlisberger for at least one more year and bet on himself.
"I was really excited to get JuJu back. I felt like I was in his ear and in Coach Tomlin's ear a lot during that process," Roethlisberger said via Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. "To have a familiar face, the guy that brings so much to this team. I don't know if there is a guy in the NFL on third and short to medium that you want the ball in his hands as much as JuJu. What he gives, the passion to this city and team to help us win is awesome. As young as he is, he is the leader of that receiver group. That group is a fun group. That is one of the reasons I said I wanted to come back. That is a special group. I am excited to see what they can bring to this offense and this team this year."
Back in January, Mike Garafalo of the NFL Network reported that Roethlisberger communicated to the Steelers that he wanted Smith-Schuster back for the 2021 season. Roethlisberger ultimately got his wish and Smith-Schuster made a smart decision to return to a team and quarterback that he's familiar with.