If you’re a young wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers—especially one that was drafted in the second round—you never want to be cause for one of your coaches to invoke the name of Limas Sweed. But that is what offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner did yesterday in talking about rookie James Washington, who was a healthy scratch on Sunday.
Washington has only caught eight passes this season on roughly three times the number of targets, but the play that really drew ire was a drop on a deep ball that should have gone for a long touchdown against the Denver Broncos.
After the game, he admitted that he misjudged the ball and determined that he would have to dive for it. While he initially secured the ball, it popped out as he hit the ground. Had he run through the route, it would have been a score.
That was one of the reasons the Steelers chose to sit him down this past week, but they don’t have much choice for Sunday with his replacement, Justin Hunter, suffering a season-ending injury, unless they promote Eli Rogers in time for the game.
Fichtner was asked yesterday about what a young player could learn from sitting out a game, and that is when he brought up Sweed, the Steelers’ second-round pick in 2008 whose most notable play, as a wide receiver, was a downfield block.
“It’s not the first time it’s happened with other receivers we’ve had”, Fichtner, who was the wide receivers coach at the time, said. “When I was coaching Limas Sweed we had to kind of do the same thing at one point and kind of bring him back to us”.
During his second year in 2009, the Steelers sat Sweed for a number of games. The was inactive in games two, four, six, and seven. He finished the season on the Non-Football Injury/Illness List with what he described only as “personal issues”.
“What happens is the third receiver, sometimes you might only be in x-amount of reps in practice, so if you’re not getting scout team work, you’re kind of getting out of swing”, Fichtner explained. “So we took a step backwards last week for the betterment of him and for us”.
The offensive coordinator said that Washington has responded well to the week of scout team reps. “I think we had good communication”, he said. “I think that was the right decision, and hopefully it will show coming down the stretch. We need him, but we need the whole group”, Fichtner added, including Rogers in that discussion.