PITTSBURGH — JuJu Smith-Schuster could not leave Pittsburgh without saying goodbye. Signing a contract in March to leave Pittsburgh after five years and head to Kansas City, it felt like Smith-Schuster was almost leaving his second home. Pittsburgh was the place where Smith-Schuster became one of the most popular NFL players and he ingratiated himself completely into the city.
So, when he left on what seemed like a whim, it never felt right to Smith-Schuster. As such, Smith-Schuster held a huge charity fundraiser at the Terminal in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. It was a way for Smith-Schuster to get some sort of closure in this chapter on his career.
After the last five years with all the support that Pittsburgh and Steelers fans have given him, he felt like he had to come back for one more event. So, he did, from 9 A.M. to 2 P.M., Smith-Schuster was scheduled to sign autographs, take photos with fans and raise money for multiple charities. To Smith-Schuster, events like this are simply priceless in the Pittsburgh community. His final farewell just had to happen.
“It was just very important,” Smith-Schuster said. “It was huge to come back. You know, I spent five years here, and getting to come back to the city where I pretty much started my career.”
It was about the speed in which he moved to Kansas City, however, that made Smith-Schuster want to come back so badly. He almost never got to say goodbye to the city properly aside from a simple social media post. That made Smith-Schuster want to give back to the community and fans even more. For him, they had invested so much in who he was that he had to give back at least one more time.
“You go to a new team, and you move so fast,” Smith-Schuster said. “Literally, I picked up all my stuff and moved to KC on a whim. I didn’t have time to say goodbye to the fans. What we’re doing today is so cool.”
The line ended up being nearly two blocks long. Some people waited as long as three hours to get to see Smith-Schuster. As such, anything they asked, Smith-Schuster was doing. He even ended up making some TikToks with fans. Quickly, the line grew longer and longer. Smith-Schuster realized he was going to be here long past 2 P.M. That made Smith-Schuster cancel his flight set for tonight. He was going to make sure that every fan in line got to meet him. Smith-Schuster was not leaving until the line was gone.
“Steelers fans, Steelers nation, they’re always loyal,” Smith-Schuster said. “No matter where you go. You know, I have so many Steelers fans, but also so many JuJu fans. I love these fans. Being here, it shows. I expected maybe 100 people, but there are 400 plus coming through and the line is still going. I’m going to have to push my flight back to tomorrow.”
Smith-Schuster is working with four organizations for the event. The proceeds from his final farewell to Pittsburgh will go to Paws Across Pittsburgh, Vintage, Magee-Women’s Research Institute, and The Miracle League. So, to have as much support as he has had is incredible to him. Tyson Alualu stopped by to help out, and Smith-Schuster wanted Steeler Mascot Troy to come out as well. It was a full effort to go in on one big last big charitable event for the region. Smith-Schuster considered it a booming success.
“You would think that most would be like, ‘okay, he’s gone, he’s done,” Smith-Schuster said. “But for myself, I have to come back and do something nice. We have literally $3,000 in merch, and we’re giving it all away for free. Any of the extra merch being bought today, it’s going to charity. It’s a win, win for the city.”
Steelers fans were loving it. Smith-Schuster promised to deliver on everything he could. The line wrapped all the way around the building as well. It was a festive atmosphere for Smith-Schuster’s final farewell. Perhaps, it is just a see you later bid. Regardless, Smith-Schuster’s deep roots in the community continued, and he got overwhelming support at one last event before he heads off to Kansas City for the 2023 season.
Smith-Schuster’s career fizzled out with the Steelers in the way he did not want it to. When it came to it, a shoulder injury and dipping production spelled that in. Still, for all his catchphrases, memorable plays on the field, and events he did in the community, Pittsburgh seems to remember Smith-Schuster fondly.