The Pittsburgh Steelers will have a chance to rebound in the AFC North with another divisional matchup Sunday, but they’re likely to be without three offensive starters, including No. 1 wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, against the Cincinnati Bengals.
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Smith-Schuster isn’t expected to be out for the long term with a knee injury suffered in Week 11’s loss to the Cleveland Browns, but he’s unlikely to suit up on Sunday. That’s partially because the third-year wideout also sustained a concussion against Cleveland.
Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Smith-Schuster isn’t the only notable Steelers player set to sit out Week 12’s rematch with Cincinnati, either. It would be a “mild upset,” Schefter said Wednesday, if either Smith-Schuster, running back James Conner or receiver Diontae Johnson sees the field against the Bengals.
Smith-Schuster has been active for all 10 Steelers games this season, and while his production has dipped significantly from his breakout Pro Bowl campaign of 2018, he’s easily been Pittsburgh’s most productive receiver. First on the team in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns, his absence would put added strain on a group that’s struggled to stand out with Mason Rudolph filling in for the injured Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. Johnson, who also suffered a concussion against the Browns, has flashed big-play ability out wide, but other circumstances — from Ryan Switzer’s move to injured reserve to Donte Moncrief’s failed stint as a starter — have left the Steelers’ WR room devoid of consistency.
Conner, meanwhile, has been battling injuries seemingly all season long and remains in recovery from a shoulder injury he aggravated in Week 11. The 2018 Pro Bowler first went down with a knee injury in Week 2, then sustained the shoulder injury in Week 8, missing two games before returning against the Browns. Conner, who’s also struggled to replicate his numbers from a year ago, managed just five carries for 10 yards in Cleveland before returning to the sidelines.