The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to get James Conner back on Sunday, and though he only got 12 touches during the game, he was effective for the most part when he had the ball, including a handful of highlight plays. He should only improve and see more touches as he gets back into the rhythm of things.
Could the Steelers be so fortunate as to get yet another Pro Bowler back into the fold this week? Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has missed the past four games with a knee injury, but was able to practice some last week, and could play on Sunday if his knee is up to it.
“It’s just a different process for me”, he told reporters of going through this injury. “I’ve never been out for this long. Usually I’m out there playing. I’ve had some injuries in my life where I’ve been out for a week, maybe at the most. I just want to go out there and play fast. That’s what I want to do. But I’ve got to listen to my doctors”.
During his first two seasons, Smith-Schuster only missed one game due to injury. He never really had any injuries of significance that kept him off the field during his college career, either, so being unable to play for this long is a new thing for him—and for the fans.
It’s been frustrating for everybody involved, but he’s been helped through it by being in the locker room. “Being around the guys, going to meetings, being in the young guys’ ears and just talking ball”, he said, have kept him involved. “It sucks that I can’t be on the field running, but at the same time, I can be a great leader by being in the room and being in the meetings, being on the practice field”.
Diontae Johnson and James Washington were telling reporters last week that Smith-Schuster was consistently in their ear trying to help them out, so we know that he wasn’t just saying this to try to find excuses for those who question what he’s been doing while injured.
While the two young guys—it’s just easier to call them the young guys, guys; I know they’re older—have been playing well for the most part over the past four games, even if lacking some in consistency, it’s clear that the offense could use another weapon, and a more reliable option for Devlin Hodges, especially after his rough night.
“It’s a situation that we all go through, that we all face in life”, Smith-Schuster said of Ducks’ four-interception game. The wide receiver has had two huge fumbles late in games in the past year, so he knows what it’s like. “This is probably Duck’s first big game. You live and learn”.
And then you get back out there and do it all again, which is what the Steelers and Smith-Schuster are hoping to see him do on Sunday.