Fantasy life: JuJu affirms believers that he’ll play

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, in a Twitter post directed at fantasy football team owners, reaffirmed to “the real ones who believed in me” that he will play against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Smith-Schuster, who has been listed as questionable for the game with a groin injury, did not participate in Friday’s practice session after limited participation Thursday.

Smith-Schuster is sixth in the NFL in receiving yards, with 1,274, and leads the Steelers in catches, with 95.

He is on a roster of a finalist in 31.3 percent of ESPN 10-team standard PPR leagues. That’s tied for the third-highest percentage among receivers, behind only Tyler Boyd (36.1) and Tyreek Hill (32) and matched with Adam Thielen (31.3).

Pittsburgh can clinch an AFC North title with a win Sunday and a Baltimore Ravens loss at the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday.

Rookie James Washington, who is coming off a 65-yard performance, has been practicing and would be able to fill Smith-Schuster’s role if needed.

The Steelers announced Friday that running back James Conner will miss his third consecutive game with a high ankle sprain. Rookie Jaylen Samuels, who rushed for 142 yards on 19 carries against the New England Patriots last week, will again start in Conner’s place.

Appealing to fantasy owners is on brand for one of the league’s most marketable young stars. Smith-Schuster, 22, told ESPN recently that he is always looking for new and creative ways to reach NFL fans. For example, he is an avid video game player and has an exclusive deal with “Call of Duty.” He also has a YouTube channel with more than 600,000 subscribers.

Sammy Toa, his mother and manager, said everything her son does “has to be authentic, has to be JuJu.”

“The main thing is being known on the field,” Smith-Schuster said earlier in the season. “The rest will take care of itself.”

He’s doing his part. Smith-Schuster is the NFL’s only player with three touchdowns of at least 75 yards since 2017.

During the week, teammates figured Smith-Schuster would be with them on the field. Despite not practicing in an official capacity Friday, he was part of a pre-practice walk-through, according to teammate Ramon Foster, which served as a good sign.

Smith-Schuster’s availability keeps one of the league’s most potent receiver duos in place for Week 16. Antonio Brown is on pace for a sixth straight 100-catch season, and Smith-Schuster will share another pregame pep talk with the All-Pro.

“When it comes to game day, it’s just we all talk about, ‘It’s GOAT time. … The GOAT comes alive,'” Smith-Schuster said recently, referencing the popular “greatest of all time” acronym. “You make your plays, on both sides. And we’ve seen it work.”

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