Based on the offense’s performance in Sunday’s game, the Pittsburgh Steelers could certainly used JuJu Smith-Schuster back. The 2018 Pro Bowler has missed the past four games, and while they won the first three of them, none of it came in very impressive fashion.
If the Steelers are going to have Devlin Hodges throwing the ball 30-plus times per game—assuming that he starts—then it wouldn’t hurt to have another talented receiver out there. Make no mistake, James Washington and Diontae Johnson have played admirably in his absence, but it’s clear that another weapon would be valuable.
The third-year wide receiver has been running, and practiced a bit last week before having to be sidelined. He’s going to give it another go this week with the hopes of playing on Sunday against the New York Jets.
“We’ll see” if he’s able to play in that game, he told reporters yesterday. “It all depends on how my knee feels when I go out there and practice”. While he did not practice at all on Friday, and was limited the day before, he did get some running in before the last game.
“It felt great”, he said. “I think it’s moreso like when you’re in that environment and you feel much better when the adrenaline is running through your body, but I felt like I could have played. But at the same time, you take precautions, being careful, taking it slow”.
Prior to this latest injury, Smith-Schuster had only missed one game in his first two seasons due to an injury (he was also suspended for one game during a time in which the league was issuing kneejerk response to illegal hits in a heated game between the Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals).
A season after catching 111 passes for 1426 yards and seven touchdowns, he is well off those marks this year, and would even be well off prorated over a full schedule. Not having Ben Roethlisberger obviously hurts his ability to produce a lot, but regardless of the excuses, it’s fair to say that this season was a major disappointment for the 23-year-old.
He’s even drawn the ire of a surprising number of Steelers fans lately because he’s not spending every waking second either rehabbing or preparing in some way to get on the field. He is a young man who has a vibrant social life, for which there are no indications that it in any way impedes his ability to do his job at the highest level.
But when you’re not producing and are missing time with an injury that people don’t understand the severity of and you post pictures and videos of yourself out and about, it’s going to raise eyebrows. That’s just the unfortunate reality. It can all be put to bed if he’s able to get back out there Sunday and help the Steelers win a game.