2021 Offseason Questions: How Much Will James Washington Play This Year?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books. It ended in spectacular fashion — though the wrong kind of spectacular — in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense. Multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. Right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quo with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?

These are the sorts of questions we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there are always questions to ask, though there is rarely a concrete answer. This is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.

Question: How much will James Washington play this year, assuming he’s on the team?

Stories have a way of moving pretty quickly, and taking over. I doubt anybody thought a few days ago that the biggest story surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers would suddenly become whether or not their number four wide receiver wanted to be traded, but here we are.

Since Adam Schefter made that report on Friday, with playing time going back to last year cited as the reasons, head coach Mike Tomlin has denied that he has heard anything from James Washington, either about being unhappy with his role or about a desire to be traded.

But let’s assume it’s all water under the bridge, and we find ourselves at midseason. Everybody has stayed healthy. How much has Washington played? What are his numbers, particularly his targets, relative to the other wide receivers?

There was a stretch a year ago during which he was averaging only about 20 snaps per game, but he’d still find ways to contribute, ending the season with 30 catches for close to 400 yards and five touchdowns. Will his numbers look similar to that by the end of the season? Higher? Lower? How many snaps per game will he play, and how will they go about getting him on the field—at whose expense?

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