Juju Smith-Schuster will return to the Pittsburgh Steelers for his fifth NFL season, but there was another team in mind if the deal fell through: the Kansas City Chiefs.
"It would've been K.C," Smith-Schuster revealed during an appearance on 'the Michael Irvin Podcast.'
Last month, Smith-Schuster agreed to a one-year deal with the Steelers, which was reportedly a "massive paycut to return" over "larger deals from divisional rivals and Super Bowl contenders to accommodate Pittsburgh's tough cap situation," according to NFL Network's Taylor Bisciotti.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport confirmed the deal was worth $8 million and Smith-Schuster had "better offers" from the Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens, according to a source.
Smith-Schuster told Irvin he couldn't stomach playing for the rival Ravens, especially in the team's run-first offensive scheme.
"[Playing for a rival], too, and I'm curious to see how they're going to be this year having Sammy Watkins and how they're going to use him and throwing the ball and stuff like that," Smith-Schuster said of the Ravens. "Lamar [Jackson]'s a really, a heavy run offense with the backs that he has. I just, just point being facts. His No. 1 target was Mark Andrews, who's a tight end. I think, just seeing K.C. and bro, Andy Reid was just calling me and he was sending me Lombardi Trophy pictures like constantly. We had a good talk, so it would've been K.C. after the Steelers.
"Like texted it to me while I was trying to make a decision and I have so much respect for him and his team."
Smith-Schuster confirmed his decision in a series of tweets shortly after reports of the deal on March 19.
"Can’t say it enough, I love you Pittsburgh," Smith-Schuster tweeted. "Came in here a young 20 year old and you guys embraced me from the moment I got here. So much love. Had my back thru everything, all the struggles and success. So hard to leave. See you this Fall in Heinz WE’RE GOIN CRAZY!!!"
In February, Smith-Schuster 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 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."
Smith-Schuster also told FOX Sports Radio it "means a lot" that 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, during an interview in February prior to the new deal.
The 24-year-old said he'd "love to play with Ben for his time here" prior to the quarterback's decision to return.
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.
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