The Steelers ruled Smith-Schuster out for Sunday's game against the Browns after Friday's practice and listed Conner as doubtful. Pittsburgh players with a doubtful designation rarely wind up playing.
Conner was a limited participant in practice on Thursday and Friday, but Smith-Schuster didn't practice at all during the week. He cleared concussion protocol Wednesday but is still dealing with a knee injury that requires a brace.
Both were injured against the Browns in their first matchup less than three weeks ago. Conner has been dealing with an injury to his AC joint in his shoulder since the final minutes of the Miami game, and he aggravated it against the Browns. Smith-Schuster hurt his knee on the same play against the Browns as when he suffered a concussion.
With the Steelers most likely playing without their top two playmakers, they'll again turn to a committee of skill-position players to make up for the absence of Smith-Schuster and Conner. Running backs Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell Jr. figure to take the bulk of the reps in the backfield.
Against Cincinnati, Snell had 21 carries for 98 yards. The running backs also got a boost from Kerrith Whyte, signed off the Bears' practice squad just eight days earlier. He had six carries for 43 yards -- including a 21-yard scamper.
As for the wide receivers, James Washington and Diontae Johnson will be key for quarterback Devlin "Duck" Hodges in his second career start. The Steelers also likely will use receiver Deon Cain, who had a 35-yard catch in his debut last week.