The Steelers did make an offer to Juju Smith-Schuster, but he ultimately preferred the deal offered to him by the Kansas City Chiefs, according to Smith-Schuster himself in a Instagram Live video with NFL Network’s Taylor Bisciotti.
“Going with the Steelers and what they offered me, it wasn’t what I wasn’t looking for,” Smith-Schuster said. “I needed to go somewhere where I’m able to play that one year, just play and ball. And, so, the Chiefs were the best fit for me. So I took the opportunity. Last year I stayed because I wanted to play with Ben (Roethlisberger) and play with my guys one more year, trying to make a run for it. We fell short. Injuries actually happen. Being able to come back to a team that wants me twice in back-to-back years of free agency shows a lot.”
Smith-Schuster signed a one-year deal potentially worth $10.75 through incentives, but only guaranteeing him $3.25 million. He will only cost a $2.89 million cap hit for the Chiefs, and three different ESPN Insiders said his deal was the best bargain of the NFL off-season in a recent article.
Smith-Schuster reportedly turned down more more last year to play for the Chiefs so that he could return to the Steelers. Last season, he was under a one-year, eight million ‘prove it’ deal, but missed almost all of the season due to injury.
Even in the five games he was healthy for, he didn’t put up the type of numbers that the Steelers saw from him in 2017-18. Last season, in five games he had 15 catches for 129 yards and no touchdowns. He averaged exactly 8.6 yards per catch for the second year in a row.
It’s understandable why Smith-Schuster would prefer the Chiefs to the Steelers. The Steelers will be welcoming a new starting quarterback behind an offensive line that struggled the previous season, but has had several significant signings. And with Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, Pat Friermouth and Najee Harris all likely to be the four main skill players in the offense, it’s unlikely Smith-Schuster would’ve been able to put up the type of numbers required for a better contract in Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile in Kansas City, they have former MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes behind a strong offensive line. And with Tyreek Hill heading to the Miami Dolphins, there is a spot open for Smith-Schuster to be the top target along with tight end Travis Kelce.