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JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Return to Practice Surprised Players: ‘He Brings That Positive Energy’

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PITTSBURGH — JuJu Smith-Schuster was a surprise addition to Steelers practice on Thursday, but it’s not clear if the wide receiver will be healthy enough to suit up this Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Smith-Schuster is three months out from shoulder surgery after he was injured against the Denver Broncos in October. He was publicly expected to miss four months, but head coach Mike Tomlin said he wasn’t surprised by Smith-Schuster’s return.

“He’s worked hard in rehabilitation and gotten himself to this point,” Tomlin said. “We simply started the 21-day window. We’ll look at him, see how he feels. We’ll check his level of conditioning, things that people normally do when they’re in that 21-day window.”

As far as Smith-Schuster being able to play in Sunday’s playoff game, Tomlin said he wasn’t sure, but didn’t rule it out.

“I don’t know that. Like I said, we just started his 21-day window. What happens out here and a lot of other questions are part of the equation.”

But just having Smith-Schuster’s energy and presence at practice was a boost for the team, which according to Diontae Johnson, was not expecting him to return.

“I was surprised to see him out there today, too,” Johnson said. “In the locker room, I was like, ‘Are you getting ready or something?’ 

“I’m happy that he’s back. If he gets a chance to play, I’m going to be excited for him, just to see him do what he does, which is make plays. I’m sure everybody missed him doing his dancing out there.”

Johnson said that Smith-Schuster’s infectious energy was a boost to the wide receiver unit on Thursday.

“He brings back that positive energy that we need,” Johnson said. “You want to be around a guy like that, that’s all about football, all about his teammates, just willing to do anything for the team. … There’s never a dull moment when he’s around.”

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