James Washington logged just 18 snaps on offense on Sunday for the Pittsburgh Steelers, amounting to only 23 percent of the total snaps the team executed on offense during the game. It was the fewest snaps that he had seen in a game in which he did not leave with an injury since his NFL debut as a rookie back in week one against the Cleveland Browns, playing 11 snaps, or 13 percent of the total.
Several weeks later that same season, he would only play 16 snaps, but it was a game in which he was injured, and he would miss the next game as a result. The lowest number of snaps that he saw this year was 31 back in week two, amounting to 48 percent of the snaps, but he was over 60 percent in each of the past three weeks.
With Diontae Johnson back healthy for (almost) the entire game and with Chase Claypool having developed substantially in the interim, however, it would seem as though the third-year player has clearly fallen in the pecking order, something that many anticipated would happen, even though he has performed, and in fact was coming off his best game of the season.
Mike Tomlin was asked about Washington’s lack of playing time after the game and wouldn’t chalk it up to much. “Again, oftentimes we’re willing to let the opponent determine who the hot hand is”, he said. “We’re just trying to distribute the ball. We’ve got a bunch of capable men. James is obviously capable. And I’m sure if called upon next week, he’ll be the guy that we’ll be talking about”.
Of course, it’s hard to get a hot hand when you’re not on the field, and he did score the only receiving touchdown on offense the week before. In fact, he made two significant deep-throw catches during the game against the Cleveland Browns. I guess that was not hot enough.
Now through six games, Washington has fallen to fifth on the team in both receptions and receiving yards. He still has two more targets than rookie Chase Claypool, and his two touchdowns are one more than Eric Ebron, but he is the only one of the top five without 200 receiving yards.
He was only targeted once during the game, coming on 2nd and 7 from the Titans’ 25-yard line. Ben Roethlisberger threw to him too wide, but he stretched out and still nearly managed to bring the ball in before it hit the ground.
On the season, he now has 17 receptions on 27 targets for 185 yards and two touchdowns. At the moment, he is projecting to finish the season with 45 catches for 493 yards and five touchdowns. That wouldn’t be bad at all for your fifth option in the passing game, though, if we’re being honest.