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2018 South Side Questions: Will Washington Play More Than Hunter?

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: Will James Washington play more snaps than Justin Hunter against the Kansas City Chiefs?

The assumption when James Washington was drafted was that he would work his way into the starting lineup by the time the regular season began. Technically speaking, Antonio Brown was the only starting receiver in the opener, since the Steelers opened in a 13 personnel package. But it was Justin Hunter who was used throughout the game as the primary number three receiver.

Washington didn’t play much at all until the fourth quarter and overtime, and still totaled just 11 snaps. Hunter saw about five times as many snaps over the course of the game. The snap discrepancy between the two was even greater than that between Eli Rogers and JuJu Smith-Schuster a year ago.

By the second game of the season, Smith-Schuster took about half of the team’s snaps. Washington is fully back up in terms of health after missing time late in the preseason with an oblique injury, so it’s reasonable to believe that his game-one workload was curtailed due to that, despite not being on the injury report for the week.

So the question is now how much more of a role he will see tomorrow in comparison to this past game. The goal is for him to be the starting number three receiver, but how long will that process take? He has yet to catch a pass, let alone be targeted, but the same could be said for Smith-Schuster at this point a year ago.

Hunter caught one short pass on five official targets in the season opener for a third-down conversion, though in his defense, none of the other targets were catchable. He also caught a touchdown pass that was negated by penalty.

But did he show anything that requires him to be on the field? will Ryan Switzer even take on a bigger role this week, another seven days into the offense? He played seven snaps on Sunday and had one carry with one target, which he dropped.

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