Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said his team faces a difficult challenge after losing wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster for the remainder of the 2021 NFL season.
"You can't replace Juju," Roethlisbeger said via Steelers.com on Wednesday (October 13).
On Monday, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Smith-Schuster was expected to miss the remainder of the 2021 NFL season as he was scheduled to undergo surgery following an MRI on Sunday (October 10) night.
The former Pro Bowl wide receiver confirmed he underwent a surgical procedure on his injured shoulder in a post thanking fans and supporters on his verified Twitter account Wednesday.
"It's awful," Roethlisberger said via Steelers.com. "I'll speak selfishly, I'm hurt. I miss that guy, what he brings to this team, his energy, his excitement, the leadership. It sucks. It really does. And I'm not the one hurt. I spoke to him on Sunday night, and I felt his pain through the phone, speaking to his mom as well.
"It's just sometimes things aren't fair, and we don't know why they happen. A guy that's given so much, means so much to this team and to me specifically.
"It's not fair."
Smith-Schuster delivered an emotional message to attendees at his foundation's annual Luau event Monday (October 11) night amid a season-ending shoulder injury.
“I sat there and cried,” Smith-Schuster said in the video shared by the Steelers' verified Twitter account on Wednesday (October 13). “I cried all night. I cried because I love this game so much. More than anyone could know.”
Smith-Schuster also addressed criticism over his dancing on the field and popular social media presence, which he said matters less to him than the game of football.
“I know the whole social media thing, and the TikTok and the dancing,” he said. “I do it because it’s my personality and I love it. Don’t get me wrong, football will always come first. Without football I wouldn’t be who I am today. Without football this [foundation] wouldn’t be. I wouldn’t be a role model for a whole lot of people.”
Smith-Schuster's injury occurred after he was tackled by Kareem Jackson on a 3-yard end-around run with 5:47 left in the second quarter of the Steelers' 27-19 win against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
The former Pro Bowl wide receiver was seen screaming in pain as team trainers examined his right arm and shoulder on the sideline before taking him to the locker room.
Smith-Schuster had previously experienced bruised ribs after the Steelers' September 27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, ruling him out for the remainder of the game.
The 24-year-old has 15 receptions for 129 yards through his first five games.
Smith-Schuster opted to return to the Steelers as a free agent in March after signing a one-year, $8 million contract, praising the veteran Roethlisberger publicly for restructuring his deal to free up cap space for other moves prior to making his own decision to re-sign.
Pittsburgh's wide receiver group is already dealing with injuries to Diontae Johnson (knee), Chase Claypool (hamstring) and James Washington (groin) -- who was inactive for Sunday's game -- through their first five games.