A couple of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ young playmakers on offense have not had an easy time of it lately. Running back James Conner had a big fumble on Sunday, and both he and rookie James Washington have dropped some important passes over the course of the past two games.
And do you know who has been there for them? It might not be your first guess, but it was Antonio Brown. As exceptional a performer he is on the field, Brown even in his ninth season has never exactly struck anyone as a leader, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a role to play behind closed doors.
After Sunday’s game, Brown approached Washington to try to keep the rookie’s head up. He was asked yesterday about what he told the second-round pick.
“Just encouraged him”, he said. “James Washington, he’s got all the skills in the world. We know what he’s capable of. It’s just one of those moments. For a young guy, a rookie coming in the league, a lot going on. But I think he’ll find his niche and get back out there with us soon and be the playmaker that we know he is”.
PennLive also captured a similar scene in the locker room after the game, writing that Brown and Conner were the last two players in the locker room. Conner returned after leaving initially before they had a brief conversation in which the All-Pro encouraged the young running back, after which they embraced.
Conner has already played a huge role in the 2018 season, as goes without saying. His 11 touchdowns are tied with Brown for the most on the team and he is in the top five in yards from scrimmage in the NFL. Washington, of course, still has yet to make much more than a dent.
When he was asked if there was added pressure for Washington because of where he was drafted and in following in the footsteps of JuJu Smith-Schuster, he wouldn’t let that serve as an escape. “There’s pressure on us all. We can’t make excuses for him”, he said. “He’s got what it takes to be in this league. We’ve seen it. We know what he’s capable of. He just needs a chance to respond and bounce back, and I think he will”.
Whether or not that chance comes on Sunday remains to be seen. Justin Hunter has said that he took reps with the first-team offense during practice this past week, which could be an indication that he will be active on Sunday, perhaps at Washington’s expense, as was the case back in Week Eight.