JuJu Smith-Schuster’s return to Pittsburgh has met an early conclusion.
The receiver will undergo surgery to address a shoulder injury suffered in Sunday’s 27-19 win over the Denver Broncos and will miss the remainder of the 2021 season, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
Smith-Schuster suffered the injury in the second quarter of the Steelers’ Week 5 game when he carried the ball on an end around and was hit hard by Broncos defensive back Kareem Jackson. Smith-Schuster exited the game and did not return.
The USC product surprised most everyone during the offseason when he decided to take less money to return to the Steelers on a one-year deal. With the Steelers facing significant salary cap constraints, Smith-Schuster was expected to head elsewhere, but ended up opting to run it back with Ben Roethlisberger and the only team he’s known as a professional, choosing Pittsburgh over an opportunity to sign with Kansas City.
Pittsburgh struggled to get going offensively in the first month of the 2021 season and its team-wide difficulties showed in Smith-Schuster’s production. The wideout caught just 15 passes for 129 yards in four and a half games before suffering the season-ending shoulder injury. Perhaps most unfortunate was the timing of Smith-Schuster’s exit, which came during the Steelers’ first legitimately productive offensive showing of 2021.
Smith-Schuster’s injury brought a disappointing end to his fifth season of his career, which saw him break 1,400 receiving yards as the No. 2 option alongside Antonio Brown in 2018, but fail to exceed the 900-yard mark in each of the three seasons that followed. It’s likely he’ll again hit the open market and is expected to head elsewhere in 2022.
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