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JuJu Smith-Schuster focused on 'bigger picture' and wants to be used differently with Steelers

6/10/2021 2:10:54 PM
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Even more than most Steelers, JuJu Smith-Schuster likely could be anywhere in the world as he prepares for another season, but he’s here in Pittsburgh as the team goes through OTAs on the South Side.

He’s spoken openly all offseason about his options, or lack thereof, this year in free agency. And he doesn't mind disclosing that it came down to the Steelers, Chiefs and Ravens for his services, all offering similar one-year deals but with more money possible in incentives. Smith-Schuster admitted Wednesday that everyone has a price, but for him, it appears that price is more than what two AFC rivals were offering, Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

“For me, a couple million’s not — I guess for some people it’s different, but I’m looking at the bigger picture,” Smith-Schuster said, displaying his bright pink hair on a Zoom call, shortly before homing in on the very small picture. “I already knew if I went to Baltimore, fans would destroy me from the inside and out.”

OK, so an extra million or two isn’t enough to make Smith-Schuster abandon ship, but what exactly made him stay? The 24-year-old who’s always vibing with his 3.3 million followers @juju on Instagram mentioned his brand, naturally, but there also seems to be a football-first reason for returning to the Steelers, and it goes beyond playing another year with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

When asked broadly about how he wants to improve his game in his fifth season, Smith-Schuster answered concisely.

“Playing more outside,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Smith-Schuster explained it as a goal to diversify his skill set, and later he noted that he’ll still be utilized on the inside at times. But he also spent much of his post-practice interview discussing a desire to cash in on a projected spending frenzy when the NFL salary cap bounces back up next offseason. He’ll likely need an increase in production to do that, and perhaps at this point of his career he’s had enough of hauling in 3-yard passes, putting his head down and trying to stiff-arm tacklers.
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