The Pittsburgh Steelers have plenty of talented wide receivers with potential on offense. They also have a quarterback who is capable of being very good in Ben Roethlisberger. In spite of all that, they still rank just 16th in the league in passing yardage, in spite of the fact that they have the third-most pass attempts.
Dropped passes, batted balls, and lost yardage from deep pass interference penalties all play a factor in that, of course, but at a certain point you also have to just look at what’s not working, and why. Earlier in the year, the coaching staff seemed to feel that James Washington playing fewer snaps would be better for the offense in a four-receiver set with Ray-Ray McCloud.
The third-year veteran lost out on a lot of snaps for a long stretch of the season as a result of this decision, and with the emergence of rookie Chase Claypool, but he has begun to see more snaps in recent weeks as others around him struggle. According to his teammate, JuJu Smith-Schuster, it never phased him—something that he claimed himself, as well.
“Not at all. James Washington’s a guy that, no matter if you put him in for five plays or 20 plays or 30, 40 plays, he’s a guy who’s always staying positive, just doing his job”, Smith-Schuster said. “He wasn’t getting a lot of reps earlier in the season, and now as you see him emerging, he’s always been the same dude. if the coach wants him to go in there in block, go in motion, be a decoy, score a touchdown, he’s a guys who’s always in a good mood to, whatever I can do to help this offense”.
A second-round draft pick back in 2018, Washington had a bit of a rough rookie season, particularly in terms of working on his rapport with Roethlisberger. Without Big Ben under center due to injury, he did emerge as one of the Steelers’ top weapons last year, leading the team in receiving yardage in a down year.
This year, he is seeing a career-low 46 percent of the Steelers’ offensive snaps, a lower percentage than he saw even during his rookie season, after playing 64 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in 2019, but he is still making his opportunities count, turning in a career-high five touchdown receptions so far, including one in each of the past two games.
Washington might not ever emerge as a star and consistent contributor, but he is a guy who can make plays and will always bring the right attitude to the table, and qualities such as that are invaluable in a locker room, and on the depth chart.