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 already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
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: When Will Ben Roethlisberger connect on a deep ball with rookie James Washington?
It has been five games now, and second-round wide receiver James Washington has five catches on the season. The longest of them was his first, a 14-yard completion that also went for a touchdown. He caught passes of 12 and 13 yards in Week Three after the touchdown the week before, and then against the Ravens added another two for four and six yards.
So he has 49 yards on five receptions on the season, averaging just 9.8 yards on the year. Many no doubt assumed that his yards per catch figure would be double that, but it’s kind of hard to do when there is no connectivity on the deep ball.
Ben Roethlisberger has looked his way eight times outside of the five completed passes so far this season. Five of them have been deep passes that fell incomplete, including one in each of the past two games. Three game in the Week Two loss to the Chiefs.
Washington was known as a deep threat and big-play wide receiver in college, but he hasn’t been given the opportunities to show that this year. Aside from the low target totals (just 13 in five games), the delivery on balls in his direction down the field has generally been poor.
But there does seem to have been some improvement, Roethlisberger coming off his first successful ‘homerun’ ball of the year, hitting Antonio Brown for a 47-yard touchdown on a go route. Is he finding his vertical touch?
The Steelers need to get Washington more involved in the productivity of the offense. He was held without a reception on Sunday, and his career-high in yardage for a game is just 25. The key is unlocking the deep ball.