December 2, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) runs after a catch against Baltimore Ravens cornerback Tramon Williams (29) in the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 19-14. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
In the short term here we are expected to hear Pittsburgh Steelers rumors of a mass exodus of seasoned gamers. Remember, there has been talk of Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leaving after 17 seasons with the team.
There’s a pretty simple reason for this. Pittsburgh is in the hell of the salary cap. The team is currently at $ 8.61 million above the estimated NFL salary cap of 2021. It also has a ton of key players who will hit the NFL Free Agency, including stars JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner. Given the Steelers’ cap situation, it looks like both of them may be gone.
Connected: Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 NFL Salary Cap Analysis
Pittsburgh Steelers rumors suggest that James Conner will go free-hand
NFL: AFC Wild Card Round-Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
“The Steelers have to deal with the return position in the design. While James Conner is a fan favorite for his community connections and fight against cancer, he’s unlikely to be re-signed and the Steelers need a new number 1 back, “ESPN’s Brooke Pryor recently noted.
In fact, Conner is a fan favorite in the Steel City. He overcame a battle with cancer playing for the Pitt Panthers only to show himself after the Steelers picked him in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Connor recorded a whopping 1,470 yards and 10 touchdowns on a clip of 5.4 yards per touch in 2017 when he replaced the Le’Veon Bell holdout in his sophomore year. When Bell left for the free agency, the young back had big problems. Last season, Conner averaged just 4.6 yards per touch and averaged less than 940 yards.
That said, Conner is expected to face a solid free agent market once things open around the NFL later in March. Pittsburgh is unlikely to be able to stay competitive in this market.
Related: Top 50 NFL Free Agents of 2021.
Pittsburgh Steelers will not be able to keep JuJu Smith-Schuster in the NFL Free Agency
January 3, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) before the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Spotrac estimates Smith-Schuster will face an NFL free agent market valued at around $ 16 million a year. Pittsburgh will in no way be able to afford that.
The franchise day also remains unlikely, as evidenced by the fact that Steeler’s rumors suggest Bud Dupree, the Star Edge rusher, is allowed to test the free agency.
“With what he will command in the open market and the problems with the Steelers cap, Smith-Schuster is likely gone, leaving the Steelers to occupy the position of the slot,” noted Pryor in the article linked above.
That fits in with suggestions from other places that Smith-Schuster is all but vanished from Pittsburgh after four damn good seasons.
Similar to Conner, he has had difficult times in recent years. The former USC star had 111 receptions for 1,426 yards in 2018. He has reached 1,383 yards for the past two seasons together. Even then, the 24-year-old pass catcher will arouse great interest in the open market.
Related: NFL Top 100 Players of 2021 – The GOAT is # 1, Chiefs’ Kelce Top 10.
Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 NFL Draft
All of this seems to suggest that Pittsburgh will have great success once the NFL draft for 2021 comes in. Running back should be an early goal for General Manager Kevin Colbert.
If any of North Carolina’s star running backs, Javonte Williams or Michael Carter, is available in Round 2, be on the lookout for the Steelers who can pounce. Heck, former Alabama standout Najee Harris might be an option with the 24th first-round pick.
A broad receiver is a little less in demand with James Washington, Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson on the roster. Even then, we can assume that Pittsburgh will at some point aspire to that position, given the success it has had in selecting broad recipients over the past few years.
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