(Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images)
JuJu Smith-Schuster was on "The Doug Gottlieb Show" today and talked about several topics. One of the talking points was Smith-Schuster being a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent in March and the possibility of staying in Pittsburgh to play with Ben Roethlisberger.
Smith-Schuster said he hasn't talked with Roethlisberger since the season ended on Jan. 10 against the Browns in a 48-37 wild-card loss to the Browns. Smith-Schuster said they usually keep in contact after the season, but this year is a little different with Roethlisberger figuring out if he wants to return for his 18th season with the Steelers.
Roethlisberger has reportedly told the team he wants to return and told Ed Bouchette of The Athletic last Thursday that he doesn't care about how much money he makes in 2021.
"I would love to come back and play with Ben," Smith-Schuster said. "He wants to play again with the same guys around him. He doesn't care about the money. He's more about the team than anything else."
Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reported on Jan. 16 that Roethlisberger already communicated that if he returns he wants Smith-Schuster on board as well.
Smith-Schuster should get paid $16 million or more when he hits the open market in March unless the Steelers re-sign him before then which is unlikely. Smith-Schuster says he wants to be paid properly, but also wants to play for a contender.
“I’m always about winning,” Smith-Schuster said. “I am always down to be on a team that is fighting and competing for the playoffs every year. As far as the business side and the money, I want to be paid for what I am worth. For what I do for this team particularly. Then again, it all makes sense to bring in Ben and have a quarterback that I can play with for the future.”
Smith-Schuster, deservingly so, wants to be paid for what he's worth, but it's going to be tough for him to stay in Pittsburgh with the Steelers projected to be roughly 30 million over the cap if the figure is around the cap floor of $175 million. The Steelers also have 19 players set to become unrestricted free agents in March.
The Steelers are essentially in salary cap hell and I just can't see the Steelers finding a way to retain Smith-Schuster, even with Roethlisberger willing to restructure his contract or take a pay cut to save money for the team.