The Pittsburgh Steelers' highly-anticipated quest to find a proven, veteran wideout may end with a familiar face. While currently employed by the New England Patriots, JuJu Smith-Schuster could end up back in Pittsburgh, where he blossomed into a star during his initial years in the NFL

Late in the 2023 season, Pittsburgh got an up-close look at what Smith-Schuster is still capable of doing. Facing the Steelers in what turned out to be his final game of the season, Smith-Schuster caught four passes for 90 yards while helping New England upset Pittsburgh. 

Still just 27 years old, Smith-Schuster is coming off a disappointing first season in New England. But a year earlier, he played a key role in the Chiefs second Super Bowl win with Patrick Mahomes under center. He led all Kansas City receivers in yards in the regular season before catching seven passes in the Chiefs' win over the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII. 

Here are three reasons why Smith-Schuster may find himself back in Pittsburgh before the Steelers begin training camp in late July. 

JuJu's contract 

The Patriots are financially motivated to part with Smith-Schuster, who is entering the second year of a three-year, $33 million contract. The Patriots will incur roughly $9.6 million in dead money if they release Smith-Schuster after June 1, but would incur just $2.6 million in dead money if they are able to trade him. 

If the Steelers acquire Smith-Schuster, it would likely happen after the Patriots either release him or trade him with an agreement that New England picks up a good portion of his salary. 

Pats WR depth 

New England has worked hard this offseason to rebuild a previously depleted receiving corps. They spent a second-round pick on Ja'Lynn Polk and a fourth-round pick on fellow wideout Javon Baker. In free agency, the Patriots signed former Viking K.J. Osborn, who caught 15 touchdowns during his last three years in Minnesota. 

These acquisitions have made Smith-Schuster expendable, to say the least. The Patriots, though, are probably waiting to see how some of their younger wideouts pan out in spring practices before they possibly consider parting ways with Smith-Schuster, who at this point is projected as a backup in New England behind Polk, Kendrick Bourne and DeMario Douglas

Steelers WR corps 

The most obvious reason, Smith-Schuster would help complete a Steelers' receiving corps that still hasn't replaced Diontae Johnson after he was traded to Carolina. In Pittsburgh, Smith-Schuster would provide a much-needed veteran presence to a room that is currently devoid of it. 

Despite his age, Smith-Schuster is likely on the back-nine of his career. Injuries limited him last year, and it's been six years since his last -- and only -- 1,000-yard season in the NFL

When healthy, though, Smith-Schuster has proven to be a productive and complete wideout who is more than willing to block to aid the running game. That was one of the reasons why the Steelers drafted him in the second round back in 2017. 

Unlike some players of his stature, Smith-Schuster probably wouldn't mind playing second or even third fiddle to George Pickens and rookie Roman Wilson. Winning appears to be more of a driving force for Smith-Schuster, who would likely relish at the chance to help a new generation of Steelers players maximize their potential while chasing a championship.