JuJu Smith-Schuster was entering 2019, but don't ask the Steelers to lock up their young pass catcher just yet. Despite an unwritten policy of re-signing key players prior to their last year under contract, the Steelers don't seem in a hurry to pay Smith-Schuster, whose deal expires following the 2020 season.
Addressing reporters this week, team owner Art Rooney II made it clear he'd like the 23-year-old wideout to be in black and gold for years to come. But then he left open the possibility that Smith-Schuster's latest season -- the worst of his young career -- could impact the club's evaluation of the former Pro Bowler.
"Well, again, it was a tough season to evaluate with the different quarterbacks and some of JuJu's injuries, so it's a tough season to evaluate from a lot of different standpoints," Rooney said, per PennLive.com. "Obviously we still think highly of JuJu and still think he's going to be an outstanding player in the league moving forward ... (but) we will address the contract situation when it's appropriate."
In other words, the Steelers like Smith-Schuster's potential, as they should. But after 2019, when the USC product logged a career-low 42 catches for 552 yards and three touchdowns while missing time with injuries and playing without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, they aren't ready to break the bank for him.
Limited to 12 games in 2019, Smith-Schuster became a fan favorite for his rookie contributions opposite Antonio Brown, then racked up 111 catches for 1,426 yards and seven scores in his first year as a full-time starter.