As rumors swirl around JuJu Smith-Schuster's future with the Steelers, the star wide receiver may have just revealed his plans for free agency.
In an Instagram poll on Thursday morning, Sports Illustrated host Kaitlin O'Toole asked "Will JuJu stay in Pittsburgh?" Fans could vote for the options "That's a negative" or "I hope so." Smith-Schuster was among the first five participants to vote for "That's a negative."
Smith-Schuster is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year starts on March 17. Although he has stated in the past that he's interested in continuing his career with Pittsburgh, Steelers.com's Bob Labriola wrote this week that the 24-year-old is "unlikely to want to accept what the cap-strapped Steelers would be able to pay him on a new contract."
Pittsburgh has already lowered its cap hit by $15 million by restructuring quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's contract last week. Roethlisberger's salary reportedly dropped from $19 million to $14 million in the final year of his contract with the team. The Steelers made it clear earlier this offseason that they wanted Roethlisberger to return next season but would have to re-do his contract to make it happen. With the quarterback accepting a new deal, the franchise could point to Roethlisberger's decision to try to talk other players into doing the same.
Losing Smith-Schuster, a second-round pick in the 2017 draft, would be a huge hit for Pittsburgh. He had a breakout 2018 season when he caught 111 passes for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns and earned a Pro Bowl invitation. In 2020, he finished with 97 catches, 831 yards and nine touchdowns.