For the second straight game the Steelers will be without JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner, both inactive for today’s AFC North matchup against the Cleveland Browns.
Smith-Schuster hasn’t seen the practice field since he suffered a knee injury, and a concussion, in the Nov. 14 game against the Browns in Cleveland. Smith-Schuster was cleared from concussion protocol earlier this week, but the knee continues to be the issue, causing him to miss practice all week.
With Smith-Schuster out it will once again be a group effort at receiver with Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Tevin Jones, Johnny Holton and recently signed Deon Cain holding down the fort.
“We have some new guys in here. And for me, it is kind of finding out who they are as a person and just getting that relationship off the field,” said Devlin Hodges, who was named the team’s starting quarterback earlier this week. “Just kind of build confidence. It is hard to get a lot of reps with guys, especially new guys, who haven’t been here. When you are with guys here that have been here all spring and all camp—luckily for me, I had an opportunity to get a bunch of reps in with those guys with Ben (Roethlisberger) taking that third day off (during camp). There are specific things we can work on, but a lot of it is getting to know them and gaining that trust for them within that week.”
With Conner battling a shoulder injury he suffered against the Browns the ground game will be managed by a combination of Jaylen Samuels, Trey Edmunds, Benny Snell and Kerrith Whyte, with all taking their turn stepping up.
“I feel like we are losing guys. Situations are what they are,” said Snell. “But we are making the best of it, making the most of it.”
The Browns go into today’s game without two starters, including left tackle Greg Robinson, who was placed in the NFL concussion protocol during the week, and starting safety Damarious Randall, not playing because of a coach’s decision. Defensive back Eric Murray is also inactive.
The full list of inactives is below.
No. 5 QB Paxton Lynch
No. 19 WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
No. 25 CB Artie Burns
No. 30 RB James Conner
No. 51 LB Tuzar Skipper
No. 76 OL Chukwuma Okorafor
No. 81 TE Zach Gentry
No. 10 WR Taywan Taylor
No. 22 SS Eric Murray
No. 23 S Damarious Randell
No. 50 DE Chris Smith
No. 78 OT Greg Robinson
No. 79 OT Drew Forbes
No. 86 TE Pharaoh Brown