Benny Snell. Diontae Johnson. James Washington. Kerrith Whyte. Deon Cain. These are the guys who have been making the big plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense over the course of the past several weeks. Some names might be a bit more anticipated than others, namely Washington and Johnson, but the collective effort of the group is a big deal.
The Killer Bs era is long gone. Le’Veon Bell hasn’t even been here since January of 2018. Antonio Brown checked out voluntarily—though likely not without regrets in hindsight—in the offseason this year. Even Ben Roethlisberger is on the shelf with an elbow injury.
So the performances that the Steelers have been getting from this supporting cast—a cast that is supposed to be supporting the injured star Pro Bowlers, James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster—is both remarkable and important.
On Sunday, it was Johnson’s turn to field the baton. With 163 all-purpose yards, he became I believe only the third Steeler to score twice in one game, previously done by Vance McDonald in Week Two and Conner in Week Six. In the two weeks prior, Washington totaled seven receptions for over 200 yards and two scores.
“On offense, I think you could speak to the young guys emerging and making the necessary plays in those significant momentsv”, head coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday during his pre-game press conference. “It is good that it’s starting to come, really, from multiple places. A week ago we were standing in here talking about James Washington rising up and making the necessary plays for us at the receiver position. In the last game, I think Diontae did similar things”.
“So it’s back-to-back weeks we’re talking about young wide receivers rising up and making significant plays”, he went on. “It’s important for us, and it’s also important for us that it’s coming from different places, that collective and individual growth and development is critical for us, particularly because we’re in the circumstances that we are from a player availability standpoint. But also, as you get into this portion of the year, plays have got to be capable of being delivered from a variety of people and places”.
On the season, Washington and Johnson have a combined 76 receptions for 1094 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s a bad year for Antonio Brown, but given the circumstances—no Roethlisberger, for starters—that’s a big deal.