Steelers' JuJu Smith-Schuster Out vs Bills: 'I Just Pushed Myself Too Hard.'
PITTSBURGH -- Inside the Steelers' locker room Friday, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster confirmed his attempt to return from his knee injury for Sunday night's crucial game against the Bills was just that - an attempt.
After participating in practice on Wednesday, Smith-Schuster's availability regressed after he reportedly aggravated the injury, leaving him sidelined once again by the team's Friday practice.
"It wasn't a setback, it was more so I just pushed myself too hard," Smith-Schuster said. "I've got to slow myself down, I'm just trying to get out there and be great, and I got to take it slow."
Smith-Schuster confirmed that he won't play for the fourth-straight week. The Steelers will rely on James Washington and Diontae Johnson to make up for Smith-Schuster in the passing game.
Washington has accumulated 242 yards and two touchdowns since Smith-Schuster's injury in Week 11. Johnson had his most explosive performance of the season in Arizona, where he had 60 yards receiving, a touchdown and took a punt return 85 yards for a score.
"I'm full steam behind him, behind their backs, always help them in meetings and just trying to make them better competitors on the field," said Smith-Schuster. "I'm super excited to see them play. They've been snapping out there this whole week, this past week, and they're just doing their job. It's amazing to see how far they've with the guys we've got on the field."
After missing three weeks, Smith-Schuster said his drive to return to the field was the reason he took a step too far in his rehab.
"When you go too hard every day, you're kind of like in that moment where you're like 'yeah you got to slow yourself down to get where you want to get to,'" he said.
Smith-Schuster's competitive nature is a key to his production but also the reason he tried to rush himself back.
"I think I push myself too hard all the time when I'm on the field," Smith-Schuster explained. "That's just the nature of me."
This is the first time in Smith-Schuster's three-year career he's missed multiple games with an injury. A tough situation for any player to be in, the receiver is struggling with watching his team play without him.
Through his time spent on the sideline, Smith-Schuster is discovering how to work with teammates and be a competitor while not on the field. A learning curve, he admits, but this missed time has allowed him to find the right responses to displeasing situations in the NFL.
"It's tough man. I've never been in a situation like this where I've been out for a long period of time," he said. "It's something that's definitely new to me and I'm learning myself and how I react to it. It could be frustrating sometimes but at the same time it's just a part of life, part of the game, it's just what it comes to."
Smith-Schuster said the injury was a non-contact play. Without any real contact available during his rehab, he s focused on strengthening his legs. His timetable for return is in the hands of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, and for now, he's focusing on short-term progression.
"We're just going to take it day-by-day, trying to get back healthy and try to increase my role in being out there," Smith-Schuster said.