Monday, January 24, 2022

Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster returns to practice from IR, could play vs. Chiefs in wild card game

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The Steelers lost No. 1 wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in October, when the former Pro Bowler suffered a dislocated shoulder and subsequently underwent surgery. All signs pointed to Smith-Schuster missing the remainder of the 2021 season, with the Steelers quickly placing him on injured reserve. Now, with Pittsburgh gearing up for Sunday’s wild card game against the Chiefs, the veteran wideout has suddenly returned to practice and been designated to return from IR.

Smith-Schuster, who was injured in Week 5 vs. the Broncos, was initially expected to be sidelined for as many as four months. By designating him to return from IR, the Steelers have cleared the way for him to suit up in the playoffs. It’s unclear if he’ll be ready to play against the Chiefs, but he would be eligible to do so. Pittsburgh officially has 21 days to activate Smith-Schuster to the 53-man roster, or keep him on IR for the remainder of the season.

Before his early exit in Week 5, Smith-Schuster had totaled just 15 catches for 129 yards, with no touchdowns, in the Steelers’ opening five games. His return, however, would bode well for an offense that’s struggled to move the ball consistently, as he’s long been a favorite target of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the passing game. In the event he’s ready to play against Kansas City, he would likely reprise his role as a starter.

The Steelers also activated fellow wide receiver James Washington from COVID-19 reserve on Thursday. The veteran missed the team’s Week 18 win over the Ravens after landing on the list.

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