Against heavy odds, JuJu Smith-Schuster is sticking around Pittsburgh for another season.
NFL Network's Taylor Bisciotti reported Friday that the receiver is returning to the Steelers on a one-year contract, per a source informed of the situation. Smith-Schuster is taking a lesser deal to remain in Pittsburgh rather than move on.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the 1-year contract is worth $8 million, per a source informed of the situation. Rapoport added that Smith-Schuster had better offers from the Ravens and Chiefs but elected to stick it out.
The Ravens offered the wideout $9 million, plus $4 million in incentives, while the Chiefs offered $8 million, plus $3 million in incentives, per Bisciotti.
"This is my home, they're gonna need a wrecking ball to take me outta here! PITTSBURGH LOVE YOU, LET'S GO!!!!!" Smith-Schuster tweeted, adding the famous "Wolf of Wall Street" scene featuring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Smith-Schuster insisted during the season that he wanted to remain in Pittsburgh. Given the Steelers' salary-cap situation, however, the possibility seemed unlikely. Even JuJu seemed to admit in the run-up to free agency the Steelers wouldn't be able to afford to keep him.
Not so fast.
After a big offer didn't materialize in a slow-moving wide receiver market, Smith-Schuster elected to stick with the team he joined as a second-round pick in 2017 rather than start over elsewhere.
Smith-Schuster's deal includes a $7 million signing bonus, a $1 million base salary and four voidable years, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported, bringing his 2021 cap number down to $1.6 million.
Still just 24 years old, the wideout will hit the market again in a year, and with the salary cap expected to jump back up, he could cash in on a long-term contract a year from now.
In his four-year career, JuJu has netted 308 receptions for 3,726 yards (64.2 rec YPG), 12.1 yards per catch, with 26 receiving TDs.
One of the best slot receivers in the NFL, Smith-Schuster generated the second-most receptions (76), the most receiving TDs (8), and fourth-most receiving yards (701) out of the slot among all players in 2020, via Next Gen Stats -- eight of Smith-Schuster's nine receiving TDs came from the slot.
He is Ben Roethlisberger's most trusted wideout in critical spots. Smith-Schuster generated 32 receptions on third down in 2020 (second in NFL, behind only Keenan Allen).
Aside from clubs having fewer dollars to throw around in 2021, teams likely weren't willing to give JuJu a massive deal. Most teams viewed him as a good No. 2 WR, given his numbers dipped since the team moved on from Antonio Brown as their No. 1 receiver. The Steelers offense as a whole, however, has struggled as Big Ben has aged, which could help explain JuJu netting below 850 yards each of the past two seasons.
The Steelers hope that despite losses elsewhere due to salary restraints, retaining Smith-Schuster keeps Roethlisberger's security blanket over the middle to make one more playoff push.
A big season in a good WR room in Pittsburgh could prove Smith-Schuster is worth the big-money that didn't materialize this offseason.
In the end, the pull to remain in Pittsburgh for another season was enough for JuJu to stiff-arm a couple of million dollars more and a fresh start.