Once a fan favorite in Pittsburgh, former Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison immediately became a villain upon jumping ship and joining the New England Patriots in 2017.
Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was not going to make the same mistake in free agency.
Joining The Lefkoe Show earlier this week, Smith-Schuster took a shot at the former Steelers pass rusher when explaining why he opted to stay in Pittsburgh over joining the division rival Baltimore Ravens.
“The most disrespectful thing is, ‘Hey, like, I’m James Harrison. Lemme go to the Patriots.’ You lose that strong fanbase,” Smith-Schuster said.
While Smith-Schuster had offers from the Ravens and others to make more money elsewhere, the decision to remain in Pittsburgh ultimately came down to retaining the relationships he had built with his teammates, coaches and the fanbase in Pittsburgh. By signing with Baltimore, he feel he would have been throwing that away.
“If I would have went to Baltimore, yeah, I would have built a whole other fan base,” he added. “But I think Pittsburgh’s fanbase is so much bigger. You’re looking at your relationship with your coaches. I would have to play with a new coach.”
This is not the first time Smith-Schuster has credited familiarity with the Steelers and its fans as being deciding factors in his decision to return to Pittsburgh on a one-year deal. He did so in his initial announcement.
This is my home, they’re gonna need a wrecking ball to take me outta here! PITTSBURGH I LOVE YOU, LET’S GO!!!!! 💛🖤💛🖤 pic.twitter.com/SPFvCLUmFl— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) March 19, 2021
Smith-Schuster may have taken a pay cut to stay, but that does not mean it was not a smart financial decision. Alienating Pittsburgh fans could have caused him to miss out on lucrative opportunities off the field.
Smith-Schuster led the Steelers with 97 receptions in 2020, while also tallying 831 yards and nine touchdowns. Selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of USC, Smith-Schuster has 293 receptions, 3,565 yards and 24 touchdowns as a Steeler. He was a Pro Bowler for the first and only time in 2018.