After effectively being benched in Week 8, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie James Washington was back in uniform Sunday for the team’s road game against the Baltimore Ravens and this year’s second-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State was even targeted multiple times during the contest.
The Steelers chose to dress Washington against the Ravens over veteran wide receiver Justin Hunter on Sunday and even tried to get him more involved in the passing game this week.
With 4:56 left in the first quarter, Washington was targeted for the first of what would ultimately be five times during the game on a 1st and 10 play from the Steelers own 39-yard-line. On that quick 7-yard out-route by Washington, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got rid of the football quick and while the throw was a bit low and got to the young wide receiver in a hurry, he probably should have still made the catch. Instead, it went right through Washington’s lowered hands and hit him in his knee.
Washington had a better result on his second target of the game which came on the fourth snap following his first one. This time Roethlisberger connected with Washington on another short out-route only this time it was on the left side of the field. That catch resulted in a gain of 8 yards on a 1st down.
Washington’s third target of the game, a 2nd and 10 reception for 9 yards with 12:12 left in the second quarter, came on another short out route and back on the right side of the field. The Steelers offense then converted the ensuing 3rd and 1 and eventually capped that drive off with their second touchdown of the game.
The next two targets Washington had in the game would both end in incompletions, unfortunately. The first one happened with 1:54 left in the first half and on a 3rd and 7 play. On that failed connection between Washington and Roethlisberger, the Steelers quarterback threw high and thus out of the reach of his young wide receiver after being forced from the pocket because of pressure. Washington had run a short underneath crossing route on that play and even had Roethlisberger been on target with his throw, it’s likely the rookie wide receiver would have been tackled short of the first down marker after making the catch.
Washington’s final target in Sunday’s game came with 1:36 left in the third quarter and once again on a 3rd down. On this incompletion, Roethlisberger attempted a deep back-shoulder throw to Washington down the left side of the field, but the young wide receiver couldn’t get separated enough from Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith in time to be in any kind of position to make a catch attempt. Washington then pleaded for a flag from a nearby official for defensive holding and deserving didn’t get one.
With his two catches for 17 yards on Sunday Washington now has 7 total for 66 yards and a touchdown at the halfway point of the season. Those stats are certainly underwhelming, and the Steelers need him to at least catch triple that amount during the second half of the season with a few deep receptions mixed in. Washington’s longest reception so far this season has been 14 yards. He averaged 19.8 yards per reception during four-tear college career in which he caught a total of 226 passes.