JuJu Smith-Schuster Could Return To Crowded Practice Field When He Recovers From Concussion

While there were a lot of positives to take away from last night’s game, and not a ton of lows, there was one major disappointment that, in the excitement of the return of football action, may have almost seemed to have inadvertently slipped onto the backburner.

The Pittsburgh Steelers did not come out of the preseason opener healthy, and, in fact, one of their most important rookies failed to leave the game unscathed, as second-round draft pick JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered a concussion early on. The wide receiver dove into the cornerback after intercepting a pass to assist on a tackle attempt by Jesse James.

Everyday readers will know by now that I take concussions very seriously. It’s a pretty frequent topic of the articles that I write. And the cold, stark reality is that we now have a 20-year-old man who already has a concussion history from his first taste of NFL action.

Notwithstanding the greater potential long-term implications that the concussion may hold for him later on down the line, either late in life or even late in his NFL career, the immediate consequence is simply going to be that his progress is going to be stunted for the time being.

Prior to the injury, Smith-Schuster was competing for the chance of becoming the Steelers’ primary slot receiver as quickly as the season opener. For a rookie with minimal experience, however, missing time in training camp can be a critical blow when it comes to their ability to make an immediate impact.

That is not to say that he is suddenly doomed to a reserve role during his rookie season now. Just last year, first-round cornerback Artie Burns spent a good deal of time sidelined due to injury during training camp, but he played in the dime defense in the season opener, then in the nickel several weeks later, and then was starting by the second half of the season. And he was rawer.

But the cornerback position last season that not nearly as deep as the wide receiver group is in 2017, and that is the main hurdle that Smith-Schuster will be working against. Especially with Martavis Bryant back in practice, he could potentially have issues even finding as many opportunities when he returns to the field to work with the first-team offense.

Eli Rogers has already shown himself to be a capable player in the slot, and Bryant is probably going to immediately be installed into the starting lineup. Justin Hunter will presumably return to practice soon as well, and could potentially be given some work in the slot with the first-team offense.

When Sammie Coates returns from the Physically Unable to Perform List, he could potentially be in consideration for a few snaps with the first-team offense as well. The group could suddenly look at crowded as it was meant to be by the time Smith-Schuster is ready to resume practice.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • pittsburghjoe

    A crowded field really means nothing in his respect, he is a lock. I would also bet that this was not his first concussion.

  • The Chin

    Do we even know his status? He was evaluated. Was he diagnosed with concussion? Perhaps I missed that. Or are we speculating and he was held out as a precaution?

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    One of the unintended consequences of limiting practice time in High School, college and NFL is that coaches have less time to teach basic skills like tackling. Yes, JuJu is a wide receiver but all NFL players should be taught how to protect themselves when making a tackle since as we learned last night the need to take a runner down can happen at anytime.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    No, we don’t know yet. Only that he is being evaluated. We should learn Sunday whether he was indeed concussed.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Of course he is a lock. And if this isn’t his first head injury then that makes it worse.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The team’s Twitter account said he had a concussion.

  • Matthew Marczi

    See my response to The Chin.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    I guess he is now in the murky NFL concussion protocol. It was 5 steps:
    1. Rest & recovery
    2. Light Aerobic Exercise
    3. Strength training plus continued aerobics.
    4. Football specific activity
    5. Full Football activity.

    If he makes it symptom free through all 5 steps; then a doctor can clear him for playing. I call it murky since there are no minimum times between steps and players have been known to be cleared in less than 72 hours.

    If JuJu is riding a stationary bike Sunday and that is it; he is likely in stage 2 or 3.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Additional head injuries are probable moving forward. Just like car crashes in NASCAR. Its a fact of life in the NFL. Either they live with it or hope technology fixes it. Worst case scenario is that its a black swan event and we move on and find something else for enjoyment. Many guys with limited skill sets will have to find other ways to make a living.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I don’t know, I tend to feel empathy for people that are not me, so it’s not just about finding other ways to pass the idle hours.

  • ryan72384

    Was thinking the same thing.. JuJu is only 20 and sustains a concussion in the first NFL game of his career. Its very troubling because you never know if it it’s a rare event and he never has another or he could be very susceptible to concussions. Either way it may already be weighing on his mind that he isn’t invincible and could even alter the way he plays who knows. Hopefully it’s a one time thing and he has no affects from it and recovers quickly.