James Washington played more than 30 snaps in each of the first five games of the season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has played under 30 snaps in the past six, including under 25 in five of them, and even under 20 in three, though he has been averaging about 24 snaps in the past three weeks.
A couple of weeks ago, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger mentioned that there was a moment in one of the recent games in which he called to the sideline to get Washington into the game. The third-year wide receiver had not been favored in their four-receiver sets.
But he has still gotten into the game, and he seems to be good for at least one significant play per game. On Wednesday, it was a critical third-down conversion thrown into traffic, on which he did an excellent job of not only going up to get the ball, but also protecting it when he came down.
“James Washington is a guy that is getting on the field and needs to get on the field more”, Roethlisberger said after the game. “But it’s not because anybody’s not doing good, it’s just because he is a player that can make plays. We always talk about guys staying fresh. We need to rotate guys, get him on the field, because he’s hungry, wants to be out there and make plays for us”.
With JuJu Smith-Schuster hitting unrestricted free agency in 2021 and quite possibly not coming back to Pittsburgh, Washington would likely have to take on a bigger role, pairing with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool as their top three wide receivers.
In the meantime, the Steelers just have too much talent for him to get on the field consistently, or so it seems. Roethlisberger appears to think that they can find ways to get him involved more than they have, but the reality is that none of Smith-Schuster, Johnson, or Claypool are going to be on the sidelines much if they’re healthy.
So far this season, Washington has caught 23 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns. He had a season-best game against the Cleveland Browns in week six, finishing that contest with four catches for 68 yards and a score.
It was after that game that his playing time began to decline, going from playing 43 snaps one week to just 18 the next, then 10 the week after that. They are starting to get him back into the mix little by little in recent weeks, but how they will be able to get him on the field more regularly, I do not know.