Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington just cannot seem to find the light during his rookie season. Sunday’s loss to the Denver Broncos was perhaps the lowest Washington has sunk this season. Three targets, zero receptions, including a dropped pass where the rookie left his feet, perhaps unnecessarily, dropping a sure touchdown as a result. Washington’s dropped pass is just another symptom of a disappointing rookie season – a rookie season that reveals much deeper issues than just dropped passes once a closer look is taken.
The rookie has seen 25 targets but has just eight catches, an NFL worst catch percentage of 32% (min. 11 targets). The numbers are disappointing but the film paints an even uglier picture. Much has been made recently about Washington’s limited route tree and with the features of NFL Gamepass, I was able to go back and re-watch all 25 of his targets and break down all his targets by routes run as best as I could.
James Washington: 25 targets, 8 catches
Out route: Eight targets, three catches
Out and up route: One target, zero catches
Hook/Curl route: Four targets, one catch
Drag route: One target, zero catches
Go route: Six targets, zero catches
Dig route: Two targets, two catches
Screen: Two targets, two catches
Post route: One target, zero catches
Washington’s most frequent targets are coming on the out and go route with 14 targets between the two routes but only three catches. While the rookie receiver began the season running a high variety of go routes, that number has decreased lately, as the Steelers are more frequently asking him to run out routes instead.
Over the last month, Washington has been targeted on an out route seven times. Though the out route has become his most frequently targeted route, it is one that the rookie has struggled with throughout the second half of the season.
The former Oklahoma State receiver ran two out routes against the Broncos and was unable to come down with the football on both occasions.
There seems to be a lot of things going wrong with the above route. Firstly, Washington is not running square as he cheats a bit with his body already turned to the sideline. Ben Roethlisberger’s pass could be better, but the rookie receiver has struggled getting the timing down with his quarterback all season.
Here is Washington facing off against the Ravens from earlier in the month and once again the rookie’s struggles with the out route are demonstrated. He fails to get his head around in time at the top of the route and the route is suspect at best. Washington does have a habit of curling his cuts and he will need to polish these minor issues up should he want to bounce back. Notice as well, that he is also in motion pre-snap just like the previous play, which is something opposing defenses may key in on during the last month of the season.
The numbers are concerning and the tape backs it up. Three of Washington’s eight catches have come near the line of scrimmage on screen or hook routes. He has only been able to make a handful of catches away from the line of scrimmage or in traffic and that is a major cause for concern. Even with a limited route tree that has seen the Steelers’ rookie receiver restricted to mostly go routes earlier in the season and now out routes, Washington just cannot seem to find his footing.