The Pittsburgh Steelers might’ve picked up an important win on Sunday to stop their early season skid, but the team lost a key offensive weapon in the process.
Former Pro Bowl JuJu Smith-Schuster left the game against the Denver Broncos with a shoulder injury and did not return. Soon after, the Steelers discovered that they would be without the 24-year-old for the rest of the 2021 season.
The news is a huge blow to Pittsburgh’s receiving corps, who had relied upon the 2018 Pro Bowler to be a consistent contributor for the last four seasons. In 2021, he’d made 15 catches for 129 yards and scored a rushing touchdown through the first four games.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was devastated to receive the news that Smith-Schuster would be out for the rest of the year and said that his “heart aches” for the young receiver, who had just signed a one-year deal this offseason to stay in Pittsburgh. However, he recognized that the injury will create “big opportunities” for the team’s other pass-catchers.
“We’re not trying to replace JuJu. We’re just trying to provide opportunities for guys to have expanded roles,” Tomlin said, per Pro Football Talk.
Mike Tomlin: "Big opportunities" for other receivers with JuJu Smith-Schuster out. https://t.co/29CAnPrP6b
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) October 12, 2021
The Steelers wide receiving group is one of the deepest and most talented in the league, so it should be able to carry on without Smith-Schuster available. Third-year man Diontae Johnson and second-year player Chase Claypool stand to be the biggest targets for Ben Roethlisberger moving forward, as they have been in 2021 already.
James Washington, who missed Sunday’s game with a groin injury, will also be called upon to step up after an offseason report indicated that he wanted to be traded. No deal ever materialized and now the 25-year-old has a huge opportunity in front of him once healthy.
The Steelers will take on the Seattle Seahawks this upcoming Sunday night.