James Washington played a career-low 10 snaps on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. The only time that he played nearly that few snaps in a game for which he was active was in the first game of his rookie season, when he played 11 snaps. The third-lowest? The week before last, when he played 18 snaps.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about Washington’s lack of playing time against the Ravens in juxtaposition to the fact that number five wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud logged 22 snaps of offense, the bulk of that coming in the second half of the game when they were running out of 01 personnel.
While Tomlin did say that the discrepancy in playing time between the two players was down to the preferred matchup that they wanted to have, he also spent a considerable amount of time efforting to chalk up Washington’s lack of snaps to the fact that they simply didn’t have many snaps to go around.
Just from a time of possession standpoint, Baltimore possessed the ball in the game, and we didn’t. So, there were less snaps to go around for any offensive player that you could suggest. We had a desire to play Benny Snell. Benny Snell has been a quality, young, supplementary contributor. He played zero snaps of offense in the game, for example. I think Anthony McFarland played one snap. When you’re not possessing the ball and the other team is and you’re not converting third downs, particularly in the first half of the game, there’s going to a snap scarcity. and you can have that discussion about any individual player, particularly some of those that play a support capacity, if you will, relative to our planning.
In actuality, the Steelers only ran 50 plays against the Ravens on Sunday, their lowest of the season. Baltimore, by contrast, ran 79 plays. So there is some merit to what Tomlin is saying with regards to playing time.
And he is also right about possession downs. The Steelers struggled here, converting just three of nine times on third down during the game. They only had three possessions on the entire afternoon that lasted more than five plays, although they only had two three and outs.
Still, even with all that as the background, it’s hard to explain the fact that Washington has played just 28 snaps with two targets in the past two games without coming to the conclusion that he has been demoted, perhaps even to the number five wide receiver at this point behind McCloud. And it’s important to note that his drop in playing time came after his best game of the season.