The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Wide receiver James Washington will fall out of the rotation by the time he returns.
Explanation: As of Sunday’s game, the Steelers were really only using three wide receivers on offense, those being JuJu Smith-Schuster, rookie Diontae Johnson, and Washington. Ryan Switzer has been barely used at all, while Johnny Holton gets a small handful of snaps. But Washington will be sidelined for a few weeks with a shoulder injury, leaving the door open for somebody to step in.
The one to walk through that door will be Donte Moncrief. He has been inactive or irrelevant for three weeks now, and it’s time for him to get back into the rotation and start contributing the way he was supposed to when the Steelers signed him in free agency.
Moncrief was intended to be a starter when he first signed, or at least to compete as a starter, and he drew rave reviews from his coaches and teammates up until he injured his finger in training camp. After dropping several passes in the first couple of weeks, he hasn’t been given a chance to redeem himself.
With Washington going to be inactive on Sunday, Moncrief will get a helmet again, and will inevitably get snaps. And he will inevitably make some catches and show people that he’s not actually going to drop every single pass, paving the way for him to be the sort of contributor he was supposed to be.
The Steelers will have to put bodies out there, including Moncrief’s, between now and the time that Washington to returns, but none of them will prove to be adequate. And let’s keep in mind that even Washington wasn’t getting a large volume of touches.
More likely than not, the Steelers are going to spend more time trying to run the ball and using their running backs and tight end in the passing game while Washington is out. For the moment, there’s no reason to believe that he is going to lose whatever role he currently has behind Smith-Schuster and Johnson. And if Johnson keeps fumbling, maybe the former even comes back with a chance for a bigger role.