JuJu Smith-Schuster, despite assuring fans that he will be on the field for Sunday’s game against the Jets, remains a game-time decision despite not appearing on Friday’s final injury report.
While Smith-Schuster plans to play after missing the past four games with a knee injury, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Sunday morning that the Steelers “need to monitor his pain tolerance” in the hours leading up to the game. Smith-Schuster was limited during Wednesday’s practice before being a full participant during Pittsburgh’s final two practices leading up to Sunday’s game. The previous week, Smith-Schuster, who sustained the knee injury during Pittsburgh’s Week 11 loss in Cleveland, was a full participant during the team’s Wednesday practice before being limited the following day and ultimately being held out of the team’s Friday practice.
A year after leading the Steelers in receptions (111) and receiving yards (1,426), injuries (to himself as well as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger) and added attention by opposing defenses have limited Smith-Schuster to 38 receptions for 524 yards and three touchdowns this season. With Smith-Schuster out, rookie Diontae Johnson currently leads the team with 47 catches and four touchdown receptions. James Washington, Pittsburgh’s second-round pick in the 2018 draft, leads the Steelers with 694 receiving yards while averaging 17.8 yards per catch. He was Pittsburgh’s most productive offensive player during Sunday’s loss to Buffalo, catching five passes for 83 yards, the fourth time he has reached at least 80 receiving yards in Pittsburgh’s previous four games.
Despite the recent emergence of Johnson and Washington, Pittsburgh is in dire need of a third receiver, as running back Jaylen Samuels is currently third on the team despite catching a total of just five passes in the Steelers’ last three games. On Sunday, the Steelers will face a Jets defense that is 19th in the NFL in pass defense and second in the league against the run.