The road to recovery hasn’t been as easy as many would have hoped for Juju Smith-Schuster. According to an ESPN report by Steelers Insider Brooke Pryor early this morning, the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver doesn’t have a set timetable for his return to the football field. Many had been hoping to see the wide receiver in this Sunday’s matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
Smith-Schuster left practice early Thursday after aggravating his knee injury. He sustained both a concussion and a knee injury back in the Steelers’ Week 11 loss to the Cleveland Browns. A source tells ESPN he did not return to practice today and will not be in the Pittsburgh offensive package against this week’s AFC opponent.
Don’t Call It a Setback
“It wasn’t a setback,” Smith-Schuster said. “You know, just more so like I pushed myself too hard where I gotta slow myself down.”
Earlier in the week, he was marked as ‘non-contact’ after missing three consecutive games due to injury. This Wednesday marked the young wide receiver’s first full return to practice since being injured. As much as he wanted to hit the ground running, his progress was halted when he reaggravated the injury.
He told ESPN, “When you go too hard every day, you kind of get that moment like, yeah, you’ve got to slow yourself down in order to get wherever you want to get to.”
Smith-Schuster has never been out on injury this long. Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner knows just how badly the wide receiver wanted to get back on the field. He told ESPN on Thursday about Smith-Schuster’s determination.
“He was wanting to get back last week,” Fichtner said. “You know, injuries. He’s got all the enthusiasm and energy and effort and want to.”
A Need for Playmakers
It’s not all bad news out in Pittsburgh. Powerhouse running back James Conner, who was also injured in the November 14th game in Cleveland, has been a full participant in practices since Wednesday. The Steelers have been on a three-game win streak at the hands of young talent in the offense.
Coach Tomlin told his weekly press conference that despite the wins his offense still needs the skills both Conner and Smith-Schuster bring to the field. When asked exactly how much the offense needed the pair of offensive talents he kept it very brief and to the point.
“A lot,” he said.
As much as Smith-Schuster would love to take the field alongside Devlin Hodges and Conner, he’s been very vocal about how proud he is of the young offensive skill players stepping up. Among them, Diontae Johnson and James Washington who cameras in last week’s game caught getting high praise from Smith-Schuster.
“It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come with the guys that we have on the field,” said Smith-Schuster.