The Pittsburgh Steelers are now in Latrobe at Saint Vincent College, where they have held their training camp sessions since 1966. While the vast majority of the legwork of building the 90-man roster is done, there is always some fine tinkering to do. Now it’s time to figure out who is worthy of a roster spot, and what their role will be.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they’re bound to have new starters.
How will those position groups sort themselves out? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in practice? Who is sitting out due to injury?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will James Washington see a higher number of snaps than he did in the season opener?
The Steelers’ vertical passing game on Sunday was more or less terrible. The team finished with four receptions of 20 yards or more, but Washington’s was the only one on a deep target. James Conner had a 23-yard reception that was mostly yards after the catch after breaking a tackle. Vance McDonald’s 21-yard reception was the last play of the game with the defense lined up practically in the locker room.
An interesting quirk in Washington’s numbers is that he was actually targeted six times, but only caught two of those passes. Unfortunately, we’re seeing an early continuation of what we saw through most of last year, with Ben Roethlisberger struggling to connect with the young wide receiver. And like last season, many of those targets have been on off-line deep balls.
But he certainly contributed more than Donte Moncrief or Ryan Switzer did. With Washington continuing to show an increasing ability to line up not only on both sides of the field but in the slot as well—and with JuJu Smith-Schuster already an accomplished slot receiver—it’s hard to figure out why Washington didn’t play more in the opener. The team even questioned the characterization of his usage being light, even though he played fewer than half the snaps.
When and how the second-year wide receiver gets used tomorrow is something that I’m definitely going to be following. He has a lot of talent, and if he can be used properly, he can be part of the answer to some of this team’s problems.