How the JuJu Smith-Schuster Injury Affects the Pittsburgh Steelers

JuJu Smith-Schuster
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The Pittsburgh Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has been an important part of the team these past few years. Serving as the main slot receiver, Smith-Schuster accumulated 323 receptions for 3,855 yards and twenty-six touchdowns in the past four seasons. Smith-Schuster continued to give effort to the team this year despite his low involvement in the Steelers offense. This past Sunday, in a game against the Denver Broncos, Smith-Schuster hurt his shoulder and will require season-ending surgery. His absence will greatly affect the Steelers offense, but just how much it will affect it is the question.

How the JuJu Smith-Schuster Injury Affects the Pittsburgh Steelers

Leading Up To The Injury

It all started in the first few weeks of the season when JuJu Smith-Schuster had a limited role in the offense. He only had fifteen receptions and one touchdown (rushing) through the first five games of the season. Even without his regular importance in the offense, he kept his confidence up and continued to play through some rough weeks.

JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Season-Ending Injury

During this past Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos, JuJu Smith-Schuster was once again leaning towards a slow week. He had zero catches on one target and had two rushes for just six yards. On his second rushing attempt, he was tackled by Denver safety Kareem Jackson in the shoulder area and seemed to be in pain after the play. He could be seen screaming in pain and was helped off the field by the health staff. The Steelers announced on Tuesday afternoon that he would be out for a few weeks. As a result, he was placed on the injured reserve and was listed as ‘out’ for several weeks. Coach Mike Tomlin announced on Wednesday that Smith-Schuster would require season-ending surgery on his shoulder. His 2021 campaign is over, and soon, he and the Steelers will look to next season.

Contract Ramifications

Given that JuJu Smith-Schuster’s injury rules him out for four months, his season is over and his contract expires at the end of the season. He signed a one-year deal worth $8 million on March 17 last year, but his tenure with the Steelers could be up. He received many offers for larger sums from other teams but instead chose to stay in Pittsburgh. Whether he stays or not, his impact on the Pittsburgh area will not be forgotten. While he may have played his last game in the black-and-gold, the Steelers will certainly wish him success in the future. But the things he brought, both to the field and to the locker room, will always be remembered.

JuJu Smith-Schuster Tangibles and Intangibles

JuJu Smith-Schuster was a fantastic receiver for many years, leading the Steelers core as WR1 for many years. The production he brings in the slot is something that the Steelers offense will miss. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said that “You can’t replace JuJu. It’s awful. I miss that guy, what he brings to this team, his energy, his excitement, the leadership.” He will clearly be missed, in both the tangible skills he brings on-field every Sunday as well as the character that he brings to the locker room. He is known to bring great energy and excitement to the clubhouse every day. The things he does for the younger guys, the fans, and the people of Pittsburgh will certainly be missed.

Roethlisberger also expressed his sympathy for JuJu, saying that, “I spoke to him on Sunday night, and I felt his pain through the phone. It’s not fair.” Roethlisberger is right. It isn’t fair for someone of great talents and of great importance to be taken away from something they love. No matter what the future yields, the Steelers will have to go onwards without Smith-Schuster. With a game on Sunday Night Football this weekend against the Seattle Seahawks, the Steelers will look to get back to .500 (currently 2-3). And no matter what JuJu Smith-Schuster chooses after the season, his qualities that brought joy to the city of Pittsburgh will always be remembered.

New Phase of Offense

The Steelers will now look to James Washington to serve as a top-three receiver. Chase Claypool, the Steelers original receiver #2 (excluding the slot), will move into JuJu Smith-Schuster’s role as the slot receiver. Diontae Johnson will retain his role as WR1, while Washington will jump into Claypool’s old spot. The offensive coordinator Matt Canada will have to re-evaluate the offense. Given that Smith-Schuster served as the short pass catcher, the game plan may very well include some more medium and deep passes. With his absence, the Steelers may also turn more towards the run game; Najee Harris is coming off of a big game, and he will likely see a boosted workload. The Steelers can work around the injury and still be successful; it won’t be the same without #19 on the field, but they should be able to still get it done.

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