Only two wide receivers on the 53-man roster at the start of the 2020 season had any more than a handful of in-game snaps of experience in working with Ben Roethlisberger going into the year, those being JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington.
Diontae Johnson was here last year, of course, but Roethlisberger missed most of the season for reasons you well know, and the rookie was still in a limited role by the time of the injury. Chase Claypool is a rookie, and Ray-Ray McCloud, who hasn’t been used offensively yet, his a third-year veteran but only acquired during training camp.
So how do you get on the same page with your receiving corps? Put in the work. And he does that, according to Washington, who talked to Clint Stoerner recently about his quarterback and what he does to help set up the offense for success.
“He takes a lot of time out. He works with us in practice”, he told his podcast host. “We might run a route and immediately after that period he goes and looks at it on the film and tells us what we should’ve done better or how we could’ve adjusted it based on the coverage. I feel like that’s just what it takes for us to be Super Bowl champs”.
Roethlisberger inadvertently made Washington the center of attention during the middle of the 2018 season when he ‘called’ out the then-rookie wide receiver for missing a play on a deep ball, leaving his feet and ending up dropping the pass when he could have run through it.
The quarterback ended up making things look worse for himself, because Washington later vouched for him, making it clear that he spoke to him one-on-one about everything before the radio interview, and he would go on to say that it was a bit of a turning point for him.
He hasn’t been the center of the offense this year with all the other weapons around, but Washington does have five receptions through two games on eight targets for 56 yards and a touchdown. One of those incompletions was a dropped pass, which is not typical for him.
The fact that the offseason was heavily limited obviously had an impact on how much Roethlisberger would be able to work with his targets, but you have to work around the circumstances. The quarterback did host some of his skill position players throughout the offseason to work on things.
Roethlisberger has had a false reputation fueled by disgruntled former employees of not being a leader and things like that, but these accounts tend to be refuted by other leaders on the team who don’t have an axe to grind against him and the organization. Washington’s latest comment reflects that, and it’s nothing we haven’t heard before.