2019 South Side Questions: Will Anybody Other Than Washington Step Up In JuJu’s Absence?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.

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 have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.

How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? 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 anybody other than James Washington step up in the passing game during JuJu Smith-Schuster’s absence?

The Steelers haven’t exactly had the luck with injuries in 2019. Their leading passer who hasn’t been benched is Devlin Hodges, and James Washington now leads the team in receiving yards and is tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions.

And much of Washington’s productively has come over the course of the last two games alone. But not much has come from anybody else. Sure there has been a key reception here and there by this guy or that, but by and large, Hodges and Washington have been shouldering the load.

That’s not exactly a sustainable model for success, and it’s certainly looking as though the Steelers will have to go at least one more game without Smith-Schuster. So the question is, will they find anybody else to step up for, say, I don’t know, Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals?

The current number two receiver is Diontae Johnson, who has clearly had some positive moments during his rookie season, but he hasn’t been able to contribute a great deal since suffering a concussion three games ago.

Then there’s Tevin Jones and Deon Cain. They’ve made a couple of catches, but nothing hinting at sustainability or a larger role. Even the tight end and running back position hasn’t contributed a great deal recently. It’s only a matter of time  before this starts to catch up with them if they don’t find ways to get other people involved more significantly.

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