PITTSBURGH — What seemed impractical in October is a reality in January. After suffering what was thought to be a season-ending shoulder injury against the Denver Broncos in Week 5, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was activated off injured reserve on Saturday.
Smith-Schuster is expected to play against the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild-card matchup Sunday night.
Running back Najee Harris (elbow) — previously listed as questionable — was also removed from the Steelers’ injury report and is expected to play Sunday.
“God answered my prayers [and] I’ve recovered from my season-ending shoulder injury earlier than expected,” Smith-Schuster tweeted Saturday afternoon. “I can’t believe I get another chance to take the field with this team and play in a playoff game to keep our season alive.”
Though he is available to play, Smith-Schuster will likely be on a snap count. Still, his addition is a boost for the Steelers.
“He had a pretty significant injury,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told the DVE Morning Show on 102.5 WDVE on Friday morning. “The way JuJu plays the game is physical. We all know it. We all love it. He could boost this offense. Even if it’s just a few plays, the energy, the encouragement he brings on the sideline. Anything like that, to have one of your guys out there would be huge for us.”
Smith-Schuster, 25, underwent shoulder surgery after the injury and has been sidelined for the past 14 weeks. He was designated to return from IR on Thursday and practiced with the team Thursday and Friday.
“To me, it looked like he was ready,” fellow wide receiver Diontae Johnson said this week. “He’s got to ease himself back into things, but he looked smooth today.
“Great hands, natural catcher. Big hands, strong guy. Just seeing him run around, show that he’s still JuJu at the end of the day. It’s exciting.”
Smith-Schuster, who is set to be a free agent after the season, returned to the Steelers on a one-year deal in free agency, but the early injury limited his impact this season. Through five games, he has just 15 catches for 129 yards. Since Smith-Schuster went out, Ray-Ray McCloud has filled his role as a slot receiver, snagging 39 catches for 277 yards.
“He brings back that positive energy that he’s always had, that he always brings,” Johnson said. “You want to bring back a guy like that, who’s all about football, all about his teammates. Just doing everything for the team. He’s a people person, too. There’s never a dull moment when he’s around.”