JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the more polarizing players in the NFL. His personality shines on and off the field. Since being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017, he's had an up-and-down career with moments of brilliance as well as disappointment.
Earlier this year, JuJu Smith-Schuster ultimately decided to come back to Pittsburgh on a one-year, $8 million contract. Smith-Schuster appeared in an interview with USA Today on Tuesday wherein he spoke about his plans and where he wants to play football.
JuJu Smith-Schuster aiming to stay with the Steelers in 2021 and beyond
JuJu Smith-Schuster has always been vocal about his love for Pittsburgh on Twitter. He could've signed with a wide receiver-needy team like the Baltimore Ravens in free agency, but he chose to stay loyal to the team that drafted him. It's only Week 2 of the 2021 season and he's already thinking about his long-term future.
"Me personally, deep down inside I actually want to see if I can stay here another four years. And actually retire as a Steeler."
That's not typically something a lot of young players think about in the early stages of their careers. It's easy to forget since he's playing in his fifth season, but he's only 24 years old. Thinking about retiring with the Steelers shows maturity and a different way of thinking.
Smith-Schuster wants to ball out and stay with his teammates
JuJu Smith-Schuster has been through contract negotiations before. He has an idea of how the Steelers will negotiate and knows what he has to do to earn an extension.
"I'm going into my fifth year. I'm going into my contract year, I got another one again. So I know what that feels like and know what it's going to take. For myself if I can ball out this year I can hopefully stay and play another four years with some of my teammates again I think that'd be awesome.
Smith-Schuster has a case for an extension. Since entering the league, he's been one of the best slot receivers in the NFL. A knock on him is that his last two seasons weren't as good as his first two with Antonio Brown as the number one option. While that may be true, he was tied for the most touchdowns in the slot with Davante Adams in 2019 and 2020.
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Smith-Schuster may not be the number one option fans expected after his breakout 2018 campaign. But he blocks effectively and does the dirty things on the field that don't show in the box score. Loyalty is hard to find in today's NFL. Ultimately, his play in 2021 will decide his future.