There’s plenty of pressure on James Washington to succeed this year. He’s in his second year, a time the team routinely frames as when they expect players to make “the jump.” The offense is still finding its identity and replacing Antonio Brown’s elite production. If the Pittsburgh Steelers want to make a playoff run, they’ll have to do a lot more than run the Wildcat to get there.
But through the first month, Washington has been largely quiet. He has just six catches for 88 yards and no touchdowns. Over the last three games, he has only four receptions for 37 yards and outside of a 45 yard reception in Week 1, hasn’t been the vertical threat the team was counting on him. He didn’t catch a pass in Monday’s win over Cincinnati. All this with his college QB under center, making it fair to wonder when his breakout performance will come.
Washington, however, knows it’s a long season and that his time will come.
“You know, just got to keep working,” Washington told The Trib’s Chris Adamski. “It’ll happen. Just stay confident in everybody on this team and trust that everything that happens, happens for a reason.”
The current structure of the offense isn’t doing him any favors either. It’s been dink-and-dunk since Mason Rudolph has taken over, a concept that doesn’t mesh well with Washington’s big play ability. He also had a potentially big play against the 49ers negated due to pass interference from the flailing corner.
His patience is likely to pay off. Pittsburgh will have to eventually open up its offense and will be more comfortable doing so as Rudolph gains experience and reps. Washington is still playing the majority of the snaps, over 75% in each of the past two weeks.
Pegged as our X Factor this season, he could be a critical piece to the Steelers’ success Sunday. JuJu Smith-Schuster has a tough matchup against CB Marlon Humphrey and while the Ravens offer an array of coverages and disguises, they have allowed plenty of big plays through the pass game. Washington has the chance to take the top off the secondary and all it’ll take is that one splash play downfield to change the perception of his sophomore season.
“I just have got to stay positive.”