The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the top offenses in the league so far during the 2018 regular season, especially when it comes to putting the ball across the goal line inside their opponents’ 20-yard line. Which is what makes it all the more surprising that they have yet to really have a number three wide receiver emerge on the roster.
While Ryan Switzer has been taking on an increasingly bigger role, coming up with eight receptions for 80 yards over the course of the past three weeks, he is not and has not ever been a regular feature in the offense. Even on Sunday, he played just 25 of the Steelers’ 66 snaps.
Another 36 snaps were taken by rookie James Washington, whom the team selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. While the Oklahoma State had one great catch in the game on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars on three targets, he is still a far cry from establishing himself within the offense.
One of the reasons for his delay in becoming a standard within the system is the fact that he is still doing a lot of learning as he plays, which is of course not out of the ordinary for a rookie. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talked yesterday a little bit about the difficulties that young receivers in his position face transitioning to the NFL.
“I do think college football offenses are ruining players”, he said. “You look at guys like James Washington .He played on one side of the ball and I am sure his route tree wasn’t as in depth as it is here, so he’s really had to take a lot of steps and learn how to play both sides and learn how to run every route in the tree. So, I think it definitely could be hard for young guys coming in but the more precise you are in college, the more routes you run in college, obviously the transition will be easier”.
On Sunday, Washington saw 21 snaps lined up on the right side of the offense and 15 on the left. Seven of his 36 snaps came from the slot. His one reception on the day came while lined up on the right on the outside of the offense.
Through the first nine games of his career (after being made inactive for one game), Washington is now up to eight receptions for 77 yards, his lone touchdown coming on his first career reception back in Week Two. He has a catch rate of just 36.4 percent, having been targeted 22 times, but he has not dropped any passes.