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2019 South Side Questions: Will JuJu Make It Back For Sunday’s Game?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.

The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.

How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Will JuJu Smith-Schuster be able to make it back for the Steelers’ next game?

During his pre-game press conference yesterday, head coach Mike Tomlin characterized both James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster as questionable for this week, which is a stark improvement over the past two games. However, neither is out of the woods yet.

As for Smith-Schuster, he suffered a concussion and a knee injury on the same play two weeks ago against the Cleveland Browns. While he has since been cleared from the concussion protocol, his knee has been keeping him out. Tomlin said that Conner is more likely to be able to practice today than Smith-Schuster, but that doesn’t mean the latter is less likely to be able to play next week.

The Steelers have actually been able to win in the two games that he has missed, and that has been thanks largely to the play of James Washington, at least as far as the offense goes, as the defense has been pretty much carrying the team most of the way this year.

It would obviously go without saying that getting Smith-Schuster back on the field would be a significant and meaningful boost for the offense, for not the least of which reason being simply the depth. Right now, the team’s number two receiver, Diontae Johnson, is coming off a rough outing, and behind him is Tevin Jones, Johnny Holton, and Deon Cain, who is still feeling his way into the offense.

The 2018 Pro Bowler hadn’t been lighting it up this year the way he did last season, and it’s all but assured that he’s not going to repeat his 1000-yard feat, but stats don’t matter at this point. The Steelers are fighting for their playoff lives, and anybody who can make a combat catch or two in a big moment is more than welcome to throw his hand in the pile.

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