Juju Smith-Schuster's latest comments on his impending free agency should have Pittsburgh Steelers fans hoping for his return feeling optimistic.
"At the end of the day, I want to have my legacy in Pittsburgh and retire there," Smith-Schuster told TMZ Sports. "I don't want to leave."
Smith-Schuster has consistently expressed his interest in staying with the Steelers leading up to his free agency next month, but will mull over his options.
Last week, the 24-year-old wide receiver told the Yinzhers Podcast that he wants to play for a contender in 2020 and within the best situation for him to succeed, which will rely heavily on how much cap space the Steelers have during negotiations and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's decision to return for his 18th season.
"I do want to play for a team that competes for the Super Bowl every year," Smith-Schuster said. "That's in the playoffs. Obviously, the Steelers are that. I do want to play for a great quarterback, not knowing what Ben's going to do. I do want to be paid a reasonable price for what I'm worth.
"In all consideration, I would love to stay with the Steelers. I would love to stay with them, but as of right now, we're just kind of up in the air, waiting."
Steelers team president Art Rooney II confirmed he met with Roethlisberger on Tuesday (February 23) and both sides plan to continue discussing adjustments to the veteran quarterback's contract situation.
Earlier this month, Smith-Schuster told FOX Sports Radio it "means a lot" that franchise Roethlisberger would be willing to re-negotiate his current contract to free up cap space, providing the Steelers with more money to sign other players.
The 24-year-old said he'd "love to play with Ben for his time here" amid the quarterback's ongoing retirement decision.
Smith-Schuster also said he "would love to come back" to Pittsburgh, but said he wants to be on the team that provides him the best opportunity to win while also looking out for his best interests financially.
“I’m always about winning,” Smith-Schuster told Doug Gotlieb via FOX Sports Radio. “I want to be on a team that is fighting and competing for the playoffs every year. As far as the business side and the money, I want to be paid for what I am worth. Obviously for what I do for the team particularly.”
Smith-Schuster told FOX Sports Radio he is prepared for the offseason and seems to be planning ahead, confirming there are "some teams" he is interested in.
“When you’re playing chess, you’re thinking four or five moves ahead and I have some teams in mind,” Smith-Schuster said.
Smith-Schuster recorded 97 receptions for 831 yards and nine touchdowns during his fourth NFL season, all of which have been with the Steelers, but gained just as much attention for his pregame and off-field antics. That included Smith-Schuster recording TikTok videos on opposing teams' emblems before games and publicly stating "the Browns is the Browns" before a blowout loss to Cleveland in the playoffs.
The Steelers will have 19 players set to enter free agency on March 17.
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