At some point during the process of rushing for 145 yards on 23 carries during an Oct. 28 victory over the Miami Dolphins, James Conner sustained a shoulder injury that has impacted him for the last six weeks. During five of those weeks, Conner was inactive for the game, and on the sixth – a Nov. 14 game in Cleveland – he obviously was not 100 percent in rushing for 10 yards on five carries before he returned to the sideline.
In his absence, the Steelers have had to turn to others for rushing yards, most notably Benny Snell, who has contributed 202 yards on 53 carries (3.8 average) in the successive wins over Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Arizona.
JuJu Smith-Schuster was concussed and sustained a knee injury in Cleveland on Nov. 14, and that combination has kept him sidelined for the previous three weeks. Smith-Schuster has cleared the concussion protocol, and last week he said he had started to do some straight-line running. In his absence, James Washington contributed a combined seven catches for 209 yards (29.9 average) and two touchdowns in the wins over the Bengals and in the rematch with the Browns, and Diontae Johnson scored two touchdowns and had 163 total yards rushing, receiving, and returning punts in the victory over Arizona.
During today's news conference at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Coach Mike Tomlin was asked if in light of the contributions from some of the young running backs and wide receivers on the team, how much does the offense miss Conner and Smith-Schuster?
Said Tomlin, "A lot."
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"Another positive thing from the (Arizona) game, we didn't suffer a lot from an injury standpoint. I'll outline some injury things before we move on. Guys with current injuries we expect to participate this week in practice and then let that participation be our guide are James Conner, coming off his shoulder injury, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, coming off his knee injury. I don't know what their anticipated practice participation is (for Wednesday), but those guys are expected to participate in practice at least in some capacity, and probably sooner rather than later in the week. We'll look at the quality of that work, and the ramifications in the aftermath of that work in terms of talking about their availability (for the Buffalo game).
"Some in-game injuries of note: Jaylen Samuels had a groin injury sustained (against the Cardinals), and that's being evaluated today. I don't have a lot of information about that as I stand here today. Vance McDonald is in the (concussion) protocol, and we'll wait to hear his availability as he pushes through that element, or injury circumstance."