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JuJu Smith-Schuster Mum on Contract Negotiations as Steelers’ Deadline Approaches

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If there has been progress on a new contract between Steelers star wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and the team, he’s keeping it to himself.

Speaking to the media ahead of the Steelers’ first padded practice on Monday, Smith-Schuster declined to expand on if there’s been any movement toward a new deal as he enters the final season of his rookie contract, saying the talks are between his agent and the team.

Smith-Schuster is scheduled to earn $1.04 million this season in the final year of his four-year rookie contract and is set to be come an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Historically, the Steelers have not negotiated new contracts with players once the season begins, meaning that the two sides have less than a month to make a new deal that would prevent Smith-Schuster from becoming a free agent.

He did say that whether or not he gets a new contract, he will be a full participant in training camp and the 2020 season.

“I’m just here to play ball,” Smith-Schuster said. “I’m not the kind of guy that is going to sit out.”

The situation between the 23-year-old Smith-Schuster and the team has been muddled by a 2019 season that challenged Smith-Schuster seemingly for the first time in the NFL.
After catching 14 touchdowns and hauling in over 2,300 yards over his first two seasons, Smith-Schuster had just 42 catches for 552 yards and three touchdowns last season, his lowest output in terms of scoring, yards per reception and overall yardage.

There were many factors that contributed to the decline, including a nagging turf toe injury, a concussion and a knee injury that limited him to 12 games overall, an unsettled offensive situation after the loss of star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and the emergence of rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson as another top target.

The Steelers also have a glut of free-agents to be with, Smith-Schuster joined by starting running back James Conner, outside linebacker Bud Dupree, defensive lineman Cam Heyward and offensive linemen Zach Banner, Matt Feiler and Alejandro Villanueva.

The team already has over $100 million in contracts on the books for 2021, including Roethlisberger’s $31.5 million cap hit.

Watch JuJu at practice on Pittsburgh Sports Live.

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Should Steelers Sign Zach Banner to be Starter in 2021?

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Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault.

He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. With Banner expected to be ready for a return next season, should the Steelers sign the 27-year-old with the anticipation that he could be a key piece to bolster the offensive line that was missing during the 2020 season?

Do you believe in Zach Banner? Comment below with why or why not.

Do you still believe in Zach Banner?

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Steelers

Zach Banner Announces Self-imposed Social Media Ban Until he Signs New Deal

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Zach Banner is sending a clear message about his priorities ahead of the 2021 NFL season. Banner, who is a free agent and looking for a new deal with the Steelers, tweeted that he is going to stay off social media until he officially signs on the dotted line.

Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault. He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. Banner now hopes to return to Pittsburgh and be the missing piece the Steelers offensive line desperately needs.

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Rooney: Steelers Plan to Return to St. Vincent for 2021 Training Camp

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There is plenty that remains up in the air about the 2021 NFL offseason, but the Pittsburgh Steelers still have plans to resume one of their enduring traditions that was broken by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Steelers were forced to forgo their trip to the campus of St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 2020 due to the NFL’s rules regarding keeping players isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s unclear how much those restrictions will change for the NFL teams this summer, but as things stand as of today, the Steelers are still making plans to return to the Laurel Highlands for the team’s annual training camp this summer.

“As we sit here today, our plan is to have training camp in Latrobe,” team president Art Rooney II said to Steelers.com on Friday. “We still have a ways to go to get there, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that’s going to be able to happen. We’re still hopeful we’re going to have some form of offseason program, and it’s probably not going to start on time but I think it’s important particularly for the young players that we get back to having an offseason program and then a full training camp and preseason games. I think we need to have that to help the young players continue to develop.”

Displaced from their usual bucolic summer home and from UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side due to capacity limitations, the Steelers spent the 2020 training camp and preseason at Heinz Field.

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