While the Pittsburgh Steelers never confirmed any sort of timeline regarding the shoulder injury suffered by second-year wide receiver James Washington against the Baltimore Ravens, it was reported that he would likely be sidelined for about three weeks.
Head coach Mike Tomlin last week mentioned Washington, however, among the players that he believes may be able to work his way back from injury in time for their next game, a Monday night contest against the Miami Dolphins. He was back on the practice field yesterday, and the early results about how his shoulder would respond have been positive.
“It felt great”, he told Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We’ll play it day by day and listen to what the coaches and trainers have to say. I’m just trying to be available for the team. Everything is good. I can’t wait to be back”.
Washington sat out the Week Six game against the Los Angeles Chargers, but the truth is that he really didn’t miss much. With Mason Rudolph, his college teammate, also sitting out with a concussion, the game was started by Devlin Hodges, and eight of the 15 pass attempts that he completed went to his running backs. Diontae Johnson was the leader among wide receivers with two receptions for 14 yards.
The 2018 second-round pick had a career-high three receptions in the game with the Ravens for 52 yards, including a 26-yard completion on third down, the play on which Earl Thomas hit Rudolph and caused him to suffer a concussion.
On the season, he only has nine receptions through five games played, but for 140 yards, averaging 15.6 yards per catch, though he has yet to get into the end zone. In spite of the fact that he has received a lot of playing time, he has still only received 21 targets on the season.
While it appears that he has already been passed on the depth chart by the rookie Johnson, the Steelers still very much intend to see that Washington becomes as big a part of the offense as he is able, pairing with JuJu Smith-Schuster and the latest addition to the group to serve as their three wide receivers in their 11 personnel package.
As Rudolph returns, and gets more comfortable running the offense, we should see all of the wide receivers benefit as a result, with the quarterback more willing to attempt passes in the intermediate and deep parts of the field. The conservative passing game has hurt all of the wide receivers’ numbers, so it shouldn’t reflect just on Washington.