The Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers room is no stranger to pain this season.
Each of the team’s top four wide outs have missed at least some time with injury this season, and an injury that forces an NFL player out of the lineup, is generally one that includes more than moderate discomfort.
But it was still jarring for those receivers to see JuJu Smith-Schuster, the biggest and toughest of the bunch and its leader, to be in so much pain on Sunday.
Smith-Schuster suffered a shoulder injury, reportedly a dislocation that would not reduce, which forced him to visit a local hospital for treatment. That’s a kind of pain that’s on another level.
“It’s tough seeing him like that in that type of pain,” fellow receiver Diontae Johnson said Monday. “It’s tough seeing somebody get hurt that’s a key part of the offense and goes down. We’ve just got to rally around him and be there for him off the field.”
Part of that was some communication from Johnson to Smith-Schuster while the latter was recovering.
“Just checking up on him and seeing how he’s feeling,” Johnson said. “He didn’t say much, but he’s doing good, from what I understand and what he’s told me. Just trying to be there for him and keep his spirits up.”
The rest of that involves replacing Smith-Schuster and trying not to miss a beat in an offense that just finally seemed to be hitting its stride against the Broncos.
“We’ve just got to keep playing,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, he’s going to be cheering us on on the sidelines. We’ve just going to keep rallying around him and keeping his head in the game, just being there for him. That’s pretty much it.”
Johnson said he’s been impressed with the likes of Ray-Ray McCloud and Cody White, who will likely be pressed into greater service without Smith-Schuster available for the foreseeable future.
“They can make plays just like the rest of us,” Johnson said. “They’re on the 53 for a reason. We can use them at anytime. They’re stepping up. Hopefully, they get more balls thrown their way and we just keep playing as a team.”
The Steelers have worked their way through minor injuries at the receiver position so far this year. They’ll have a bigger challenge ahead in dealing with a long-term absence from one of the team’s stars.