The Steelers limped through another victory on Sunday, beating the Cleveland Browns on Sunday with a number of absences, particularly on offense.
Randy Fichtner’s unit faced their divisional rivals without their starting quarterback, center, running back, and No. 1 wide receiver on Sunday, and still came away with victory.
This week, as the Steelers prepare to visit the Arizona Cardinals, they’re hoping to get some of those weapons backs. Preseason fourth-stringer Devlin Hodges will once again be under center, but All Pro Maurkice Pouncey will be the man snapping him the ball as he’s returned from his two-game suspension.
Top skill position targets James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster’s status remain up in the air.
“We still don’t have a lot of clarity on James Conner and JuJu,” head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday. “I’d probably characterize both guys as questionable as I stand here today. They’ve got some work in front of them in terms of rehabilitation and maybe practice participation.”
Tomlin said both players were at the facility getting treatment on Monday in an attempt to get ready for practice this week. Practice participation usually guides the Steelers’ decision making when it comes to whether or not to play injured players.
“Conner probably has a better chance of practicing in some capacity tomorrow than JuJu,” Tomlin added. “We’ll take it day-by-day and see where it leads us.”
Conner was injured in the waning moments of the Steelers’ Week 8 win over the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 28. He was diagnosed with a sprained AC joint in his shoulder, and tried to return three weeks later against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 14, but was pulled once again after just five carries.
On the season, Conner has 102 carries for 309 yards in eight games, with his 3.8 yards per carry figure down from the 4.5 he posted in each of his first two seasons.
He’s been replaced by Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell, with the latter of which growing into his role over the last two weeks. Snell had 16 carries for 63 yards and his first career touchdown against the Browns in Week 13, after posing career highs with 21 carries and 98 yards against the Bengals in Week 12.
Smith-Schuster has been replaced by James Washington and Diontae Johnson. Washington had his best performance as a pro on Sunday, bringing down all four targets for 111 yards and a touchdown.