PITTSBURGH — For the second week in a row, the Pittsburgh Steelers ground attack will be without James Conner. After taking steps back in his recovery from a shoulder injury, Conner is listed as out for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Because he didn’t practice Thursday or Friday after a limited showing Wednesday, his absence against the Rams was anticipated.
Perhaps even more troubling is the new addition to the injury report.
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with a foot injury. The injury first appeared on Friday’s practice report, and he was a limited participant in the final practice of the week.
Though Smith-Schuster’s numbers have been down this season, the double-teams he has drawn have freed up other receivers.
“He’s attracting a lot of flies,” quarterback Mason Rudolph said after a victory over the Indianapolis Colts. “When he’s not catching the ball, he understands the type of attention he attracts. He really does a good job for me, being a selfless player in this situation. He knows he’s taking two with him, and somewhere else we’re going to have the opportunity to throw the ball.”
Smith-Schuster anticipated matching up against corner Jalen Ramsey on Sunday.
“He’s arguably one of the best corners in the league. I have the opportunity to go against him; it’s going to be great, it’s a blessing,” Smith-Schuster said Wednesday. “Their secondary is one of the best secondaries we play throughout the season.”
In past matchups with the Steelers, Ramsey was assigned to Antonio Brown. Smith-Schuster would provide a different type of matchup for the two-time Pro Bowler.
“No disrespect to him, he’s not Antonio Brown,” Ramsey said Friday. “I matched up with Antonio there for two years and that was a good battle and I held my own in those battles, and yeah, now I’m going up against a different person, different body type, different receiver a little bit, he can make plays.
“He plays very physical, he plays strong, aggressive through the catch, so I have to be on my s— early. I look forward to it.”
The Steelers have four wide receivers other than Smith-Schuster on the active roster: Ryan Switzer, James Washington, Diontae Johnson and Johnny Holton.
Meanwhile, the running back group will also be thin without Conner, who injured the AC joint in his right shoulder in the final minutes of the win over the Miami Dolphins, and Benny Snell Jr., who had knee surgery two weeks ago.
Running back Trey Edmunds missed part of the week with injured ribs, but he practiced fully Friday. With Conner and Snell out, the run game will heavily rely on Jaylen Samuels and Edmunds for the second week in a row.
“It is what it is,” coach Mike Tomlin told Steelers.com on Friday. “We’ll have a running back on the field and expect those guys to deliver for us. We’ve been challenged in that way this year and it seems like at every turn, guys have had an opportunity to stand and deliver. Benny Snell had a big half or so a couple weeks back in L.A. Edmunds had an opportunity to be a major contributor last week. We don’t fear it. We fully understand the position that we’re in, but we fully expect whoever is to do it, to do a credible job.”