After suffering a blow to the shoulder during Sunday’s game against the Broncos, Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster will miss the remainder of the season following a shoulder examination completed after the game.
Based on the examination, Smith-Schuster’s shoulder was found to be dislocated, potentially resulting in a labral tear. He will receive shoulder surgery, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Now, an already struggling Steelers team must look to its depth chart to fill in Smith-Schuster’s gap. This hole could be long-term, too, because Smith-Schuster will be a free agent after this season.
Smith-Schuster almost left the Steelers in the off-season as a free agent. He ended up choosing to stick with his team when he signed a one-year, $8 million deal, even though this wasn’t the most money he was offered. He had hopes of growing this season with the Steelers. But, with his season now ended, he finishes the 2021 season with one touchdown, 15 catches and 129 yards through five games.
The future of Smith-Schuster on the Steelers is uncertain, and most likely will be until after this season.
The Steelers are now down two wide receivers after James Washington missed Sunday’s game with a groin injury. His return is unknown at the moment.
The other two starting wide receivers are Diontae Johnson (305 receiving yards) and Chase Claypool (341 receiving yards). Johnson missed Week 3’s game against the Bengals because of a knee injury. Claypool missed Week 4’s game against the Packers because of a hamstring injury. He came back for the Week 5 win with 130 receiving yards, his most this season.
With an injury prone wide receiver depth chart so far this season, the Steelers could feel a big impact from Smith-Schuster’s departure. The two benched wide receivers are Ray-Ray McCloud and Cody White. McCloud has played the past three weeks because of all the injuries, only resulting in 36 receiving yards. He is expected to come in Smith-Schuster’s place.
UPDATE: Smith-Schuster had surgery last night and will miss the rest of the season per @RapSheet.
Ray-Ray McCloud and James Washington will likely step up in his place. https://t.co/CPBV1Fpqpi
— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) October 11, 2021
As a rookie, White has only played two games in the NFL, only picking up 17 yards in the Steelers’ loss to the Bengals in Week 3. White was elevated up from the practice squad for those two games, and he was finally signed to the 53-man roster ahead of Sunday’s game against the Broncos. The timing worked out well for the Steelers.
If Washington remains out for Week 6’s matchup against the Seahawks, White will most likely take his place.
Regardless of who now starts as the Steelers’ wide receivers, this is a position Mike Tomlin and his team must look into for the 2022 NFL Draft, especially if they don’t offer Smith-Schuster another contract.