The Pittsburgh Steelers injected a Pro Bowler back into the fold on offense last Sunday, getting running back James Conner back on the field after missing the past three games, and most of the past six. The offense managed to score just 10 points, but seven were his.
Can they make it two-for-two in getting another Pro Bowler back this week? Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has sat out the past four games with a knee injury, but he was able to practice fully yesterday. Provided that there are no setbacks, he should be able to play for the Steelers on Sunday against the New York Jets.
In the four games that he missed, some of the Steelers’ ‘younger’ wide receiver have been able to step up, chief among them being James Washington. Over the past four weeks, he has caught 16 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns. That would be a 1300-yard season…if he duplicated it three more times.
Rookie Diontae Johnson had a bit of a rough stretch, but he’s gotten some numbers in the past two weeks. Through four games, he has caught 15 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown. He also has 33 rushing yards on two attempts, and an 85-yard punt return touchdown.
Adding Smith-Schuster back into that mix with the growth that the other two wide receivers have down over the past four weeks is potentially exciting. Johnson talked about what his return to the lineup might mean, for them as well as for the offense.
“They’re probably gonna try to double JuJu, so me and James will probably be freed up the whole game”, he said of the Jets. “But if they don’t, they’re probably just gonna double one of us, because we’ve been having success this season. We’re not really worried about that. We’re just gonna go out there and just play our game”.
Johnson leads the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns this season, and is second to Washington in receiving yards. He has played more than was intended, but that became a necessity with Donte Moncrief not performing after injuring his finger in training camp.
Johnson said of Smith-Schuster, going through a full practice, “he’s coming along. Obviously you don’t coming back from injuries like what he’s dealing with that fast, so it takes time. But he’s looking pretty good”.
The third-year wide receiver has two games left to remind people of why they believed he could be the Steelers’ number one target in the post-Antonio Brown offense. If he doesn’t manage it, he’ll have to hear it all offseason.