The Pittsburgh Steelers might be on track to have wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster back for the wild-card game this weekend.
Smith-Schuster returned to practice on Thursday after being put on the reserve/injured list after Week 5 with a shoulder injury. He remains on IR and the Steelers have 21 days to activate him to the 53-man roster.
But they might not have much more than four more days in their 2021 season. The Steelers snuck into the final AFC playoff spot and could use all the help they can get heading into a matchup with the No. 2 seed Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night.
They are the biggest underdog in wild-card round history, opening as a 13-point underdog at BetMGM. And quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has fully embraced it.
"We don't have a chance," Roethlisberger mockingly told reporters on Wednesday. "Let's just go in and play and have fun."
Pittsburgh lost, 36-10, to the Chiefs in Week 16. Kansas City led 36-3 before the Steelers' fourth-quarter touchdown. The offense has been an issue all season and averages six yards per attempt, tied for second-to-last in the league. Their 34 total touchdowns are in the bottom quarter of the league.
Smith-Schuster, 24, had 15 catches for 129 yards (8.6 yards per catch) in the five games before his injury. He added three carries for nine yards and one rushing touchdown.
It was initially feared to keep him out for the season. He signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Steelers in the offseason reportedly with the hopes of building his value for a larger deal in 2022.
The Steelers might also have receiver James Washington back in the fold. They activated him from the reserve-COVID-19 list on Thursday. He did not play in the regular season finale against the Baltimore Ravens in which the Steelers squeaked out a victory in overtime.