The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are in a critical portion of the offseason in which the preseason takes center stage, where some of the biggest and most important questions get answered, especially in terms of personnel.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Game Edition – Will James Washington play, and how much?
The Steelers made it a point to replace Martavis Bryant soon after they traded him during the 2018 NFL Draft, using their second-round pick on Oklahoma State’s James Washington, one of the top wide receivers in the draft.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will step into Bryant’s role immediately. According to reports from the beat writers, there is a more than reasonable chance that he is not going to be used as the Steelers’ primary number three receiver in the season opener, as Justin Hunter has been practicing in that role.
Because of that, there is a chance that the rookie might not even dress for his first game, with Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ryan Switzer, and Darrius Heyward-Bey also all requiring a gameday helmet for either offense or special teams.
I do believe with Vance McDonald ruled out, there is a good chance that both Hunter and Washington will dress. Dave Bryan is guessing that they go in a different direction and have Jordan Dangerfield active as a fifth safety, so we’ll see in which direction they go.
Last season, Smith-Schuster did not open in the starting lineup. In fact, he not only failed to catch a pass in the season opener—he wasn’t even targeted. He went on to catch 58 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns in the 13 games he played after that, however.
Washington missed time after he left the third preseason game with an oblique injury, failing to contribute much in that game. He sat out the preseason finale as well. He was not listed on the injury report this week—McDonald was the only one—but we will know soon enough whether or not he even dresses, let alone sees a significant amount of playing time.