Steelers Uncertain of James Conner's, JuJu Smith-Schuster's Availability

Noah Strackbein

During his press conference on Tuesday, Mike Tomlin spent a lengthy amount of time discussing Devlin Hodges' replacement of Mason Rudolph. Before that, though, he addressed the team's concerns about not having their offensive stars back for another week. 

James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster both missed the Steelers game in Cincinnati with injuries. Conner, who missed two games prior with a shoulder injury, left Week 11's game in Cleveland after only five rushing attempts. 

On his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan, Conner addressed his injury, stating it could be longer than expected for a return. 

"Currently speaking, it'll be a little longer," Conner said. "I'm not sure how many days or how long it may be, but I'm working my butt off sitting in the training room and the weight room to get this thing as strong as possible, and doing everything else possible that I can to hurry up and get back. It's killing me not being out there, but I'll just have to wait it out."

Smith-Schuster also left the Steelers' game in Cleveland with a concussion, but was later diagnosed with a knee injury. The wide receiver was seen walking through the Steelers practice facility in a pretty visible brace, and it's yet to be determined how long these injuries will keep him sidelined. 

Tomlin said Tuesday that, as of right now, he's uncertain about the timetable for either player heading into Sunday. Without being able to give a prediction on whether or not they'd practice this week, Tomlin didn't have much information on his two Pro Bowlers, but did seem weary about their availability versus Cleveland. 

"We don't have a lot of clarity about availability in these men," Tomlin said. "JuJu with his knee, James Conner with his shoulder, and Artie Burns with his knee. All three missed the last game, I don't know what their status will be as I stand here. Obviously, we'll go through our normal procedures in terms of looking at those guys and seeing if they're good enough to participate in practice and then go from there." 

During their absence, James Washington and Benny Snell Jr. filled the roles at running back and receiver. Washington caught the team's only touchdown on a 79-yard pass from Devlin Hodges in the third quarter. Snell finished with 21 rushes for 98 yards. 

"We were really cautious about the anticipated number of snaps that Benny could absorb," Tomlin said. "I think he went above and beyond our expectations."

Tomlin said that until they know more about who can and cannot play this week, they can't determine how their backfield will look against Cleveland.

"There's no indication of where we're going to go this week," Tomlin said. "We'll assess our availability and our level of comfort of that availability. It was difficult to plan a week ago because we just didn't have many shared experiences with Benny Snell."

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