In the words that flow below, I don’t expect you to agree with all of them. I don’t expect you to disagree with all of them either. What I aim to do is enter the already overflowing fray of opinions on Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, his social media and his future in the Steel City.
The Social Media
There have been many opinions in recent hours following a post from Smith-Schuster in which he asked for fans to back off and give him some privacy. This post was prompted by people who actually showed up to where he was and pounded on the door. I’ve seen some of my fellow writers and bloggers claim “this is what you get when you spend so much time on social media.” Others have condemned this behavior by those who were brazen enough to get so close to JuJu.
Let me be perfectly clear. Regardless of how often someone posts to Instagram or TikTok, there is never a scenario where ‘followers’ should be allowed to bang on the door in an effort to see or get to the individual. JuJu did not “bring this on himself.” He is a massive social media personality with millions of followers but where in this ‘social contract’ does it say your own personal privacy and safety is forfeited?
I don’t really enjoy defending social media to be honest. Much of what is wrong with our society in general has roots in it but like Smith-Schuster, I understand it’s impact. I know that without Twitter and Facebook, that this very article has less chance of being seen. That’s not good for my brand. Compared to JuJu and many of you, I’m an old man and probably don’t belong on social media because I honestly don’t really get the draw sometimes. But that’s not for me to decide. If Smith-Schuster or Antonio Brown or T.J. Watt want to use it then that is 100% their choice as is how they use it. We don’t have a say and we sure as hell don’t have the right to suggest social media allows me to go on a man’s property because “I love his TikToks.” That’s just wrong.
I have accepted that this is today’s athlete. More to the point, this is today’s NFL player if they choose. Who are you or who am I to tell them otherwise? NFL careers are short. You need to make as much money as you can and if social media helps you do that then so be it. People didn’t like seeing athletes in beer commercials either many years ago but that’s none of our business. Nothing an athlete does on social media should ever make us say that it’s OK to do what some did earlier this week.
I know some of you don’t want to hear this but JuJu Smith-Schuster will not be back with the Steelers in 2021. This has nothing to do with social media or a local shock jock’s personal vendetta against him. This has everything to do with depth, money and where the Steelers will choose to spend it.
Smith-Schuster plays a position where the Steelers have great depth. Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and James Washington are a triumvirate that most NFL teams would love to have but their presence makes it a tad easier to let JuJu go. Throw in Ray Ray McCloud and the Steelers’ uncanny ability to draft talent at the position and Smith-Schuster becomes expendable.
There is also precedent. The Steelers have only given second contracts to wide receivers named Hines Ward and Antonio Brown. Understand here people that JuJu is going to command a lot of money. $15 million per season is not out of the question.
Pittsburgh is $21 million over the cap. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick are both going to need big deals. The offensive line is going to be rebuilt. The QB currently takes up $41 million towards the cap and the team has many, many players who will likely be set free simply because the Steelers can’t pay them.
Are there ways to get around some of this? Sure there are. Vance McDonald retiring this past week helps but this is but a ripple in what needs to be a tidal wave. If, as we are led to believe, that JuJu’s ‘brand’ is important to him, then he’d be foolish not to look for a deal in Los Angeles or New York. These are cities that will instantly increase his exposure and his bank account.
I truly believe that he wants to be here. Ben Roethlisberger has stated he wants JuJu to stay. The majority of the fan base clearly wants him to return as well. None of those things can override the financials though. Please note that nowhere in this piece am I saying that the Steelers can’t bring him back. Where there’s a will there’s a way but with needs in so many other places I just can’t see it happening.
If the AFC Wild-Card loss to Cleveland was his final game as a Steeler then he went out as he came in. He made tough catches… He took some serious shots on those catches… He blocked hard and competed his ass off until the very end. His departure will not have been due to dancing on logos or social media posts. It will be due to business decisions plain and simple. At the end of the day aren’t ‘business decisions’ what we all make in order to further our lives?
Photo courtesy profootballtalk.com