Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver James Washington, the team’s second-round draft pick this year out of Oklahoma State, only played 11 total offensive snaps in the Sunday road opener against the Cleveland Browns and failed to even get one pass thrown his way. On Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about Washington’s limited playing time against the Browns and specifically, what the young wide receiver needs to do moving forward to get on the field more.
“He’s just got to keep working,” Tomlin said of Washington. “You know, he’s a young guy. He’s made some plays in preseason football, he’s made some plays in a training camp-like setting, he played some on Sunday. That will continue. It’s just a natural maturation process or development that all players go through. What happened for him Sunday is no reflection of the trajectory of his career, whether it was positive or negative.
“I think it’s important that young guys just wipe the slate clean and clock in and come to work each and every day and don’t overanalyze the here and the now because the reality is, in the big scheme of things, he’s been here a very short period of time. I know it seems like he’s been here a long time for him, he just needs to keep coming to work as does all the others.”
According to our early charting of Sunday’s game against the Browns, most of Washington’s offensive snaps came in 11 personnel groupings that included fellow wide receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster both being on the field along with tight end Jesse James. Another snap came when new wide receiver Ryan Switzer was on the field for one of his 7 total offensive snaps played.
Washington did deal with an abdominal injury late in the preseason but even so, he wasn’t listed on the Steelers official Week 1 injury report at any point of last week. Tomlin, however was asked on Tuesday if the recent abdominal injury suffered by Washington resulted in him being limited in practice last week.
“No, not last week,” Tomlin said.
Steelers guard Ramon Foster was also asked about the lack of playing time that Washington received this past Sunday during his morning interview on 93.7 The Fan and the veteran offensive lineman said the rookie wide receiver just needs to be patient right now and that there are still 15 more regular season games yet to be played.
“James will be a guy that eventually get his time, but right now, the skill guys out there right now, is he ready to outplay those guys? You just give him time. His situation is going to come up and I’m sure he’s going to seize it, also,” Foster said
For now, veteran wide receiver Justin Hunter appears to be the player that is preventing Washington from seeing the field more and that will likely start changing very soon. I’m sure it won’t be too much longer before Washington starts playing more offensive snaps than Hunter and maybe even as early as the fifth game of the season, if not sooner.
Washington, by the way, did play 5 special teams snaps against the Browns while Hunter, not surprisingly, played zero.