JuJu Smith-Schuster 'Hopeful' to Return to Steelers Near Playoffs

Noah Strackbein

PITTSBURGH -- JuJu Smith-Schuster started his return to the Steelers on Wednesday, in what's an effort to return to this team at some point this season. Smith-Schuster said he started running and considers himself "week-to-week" as he recovers from a knee injury. 

"I mean it feels fine. We just went out, I don't want to re-injure it," Smith-Schuster said. 

Smith-Schuster hasn't played since the team's Week 11 against the Cleveland Browns. He left the game due to a concussion but was later diagnosed with a knee injury. 

The wideout said watching his team play hasn't been fun but he's taking the steps in rehab and hopes to return with his teammates at some point during this run. The Steelers currently sit as the sixth-seed in the AFC, leaving a return for Smith-Schuster somewhere near playoff time. 

"It is frustrating. Not being out there to help the guys make plays. I feel like I'm a huge part of this team, but at the same time I have to do what's right for my team and for me to get healthy," Smith-Schuster said. "Our guys will lead us to the playoffs and hopefully I'll be back in time to contribute to the end of the season or the playoffs."

Right now, the offense is finding enough of a spark to keep their season alive each week. Devlin Hodges has found an interest in James Washington, who's shown flashes of superstar potential as the team's top receiving option during Smith-Schuster's absence. 

"[Washington is] Doing a lot of great things," Smith-Schuster said. "Being able to play inside at F, you know taking over that role, a big-bodied guy making like a one, and making plays at wide receiver. You can see he's out there looking like a one. Doing his job."

When the Pro Bowler does return, he's certain his presence will help the offense's progression. The Steelers have struggled to find success in the offense this season, but have seen some light since Hodges took over as the starting quarterback. 

Whenever Smith-Schuster does become part of the Steelers game plan again, he's going to add another weapon for Hodges to utilize. If it opens up the passing game more, it should create a positive cause-and-effect for the entire offense.

"I think it'll help out the whole offense. We have weapons on both sides of the field," Smith-Schuster said. "As receivers, inside and out, guys who can play inside and out. It helps out our running game, it helps out the passing, so I think it'll be a long gist of helping each other out."

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