Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had said a couple of times since the team’s last game that he feels third-year wide receiver James Washington deserves to get on the field more. This wasn’t just following his key third-down catch late in the game against the Baltimore Ravens, but is something that he has fairly consistently been saying.
On Monday against the Washington Football Team, the Steelers opened the game out of the 12 personnel, and Chase Claypool was on the field for the first snap—with Washington. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson were both on the sideline for the play, which was a deep shot down Washington’s way.
Even though he had been able to get behind Ronald Darby off a double move, however, Roethlisberger’s pass landed a couple of feet out of bounds for an incompletion, which has unfortunately been all too common so far this year.
Washington would still account for the Steelers’ only positive offensive play of the first quarter through their opening three drives, the first two of which resulted in going three and out. On 2nd and 10 on their third drive, however, Roethlisberger was able to hit his receiver for a 30-yard gain for their only first down of those first three drives.
That wouldn’t be his biggest play of the day, though. Late in the first half, after the Steelers got a stop against Washington deep in their own end to set themselves up at midfield after a punt, Washington was able to turn a short pass into a big gain, breaking a tackle at the catch point and outrunning the final defender for a 50-yard score.
It was his fourth touchdown of the season, which marks a new career-high for him after scoring three times last year. His 80 receiving yards are also his most of the season, and the fifth-most of his career to date.
He would only be targeted one more time during the game, resulting in an incompletion, but his four targets were the most that he has seen in a single game since his playing time began to plummet. With another short week coming up, we will probably continue to see a bit more of him next week against the Buffalo Bills.
When you take his big plays into consideration with the fact that a number of the Steelers’ other receivers are putting balls on the ground, you have to wonder if he isn’t going to see an increased role. It’s not as though he has done anything to merit the reduced playing time. it’s just how things go when you have a lot of talent at one position.