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2018 South Side Questions: Did Short Week Limit Washington’s Role?

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: Will the longer week to prepare for the next game allow James Washington to be more involved?

In spite of the fact that he saw a lot of snaps during Thursday night’s commanding 52-21 victory over the Carolina Panthers, rookie wide receiver James Washington was more of a spectator than a contributor. Just days after he caught two passes on five targets, the second-round pick never even saw the ball come his way on Ben Roethlisberger’s 25 pass attempts—even while Roosevelt Nix caught two passes for 17 yards.

Steelers fans have been hungry for Washington to get more involved and become a bigger contributor after watching JuJu Smith-Schuster thrive during his rookie season just a year ago. After a 917-yard debut season, Smith-Schuster leads the Steelers with 56 receptions for 762 yards, and caught his third touchdown on a 75-yard catch and run on the opening play of the game.

While they haven’t necessarily needed the rookie wide receiver to be much of a contributor—after all, they have won their past five games, often with ease—the hope was obviously for Washington to be established as the number three receiver by the end of his rookie season.

Perhaps it was largely due to the short work week that limited his opportunities to contribute in the passing game Thursday, though if that were the case, they could have chosen to dress Justin Hunter over him, as they had the game prior to Sunday’s.

If that is the case, will he then stand a better chance of being a bigger contributor next week when they head down south to face the Jacksonville Jaguars? Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said heading into the game that he sensed Washington’s time was coming, but it certainly wasn’t on Thursday night.

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