2021 Offseason Questions: Will Canada Be Able To Give James Washington More Playing Time?

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: Will Matt Canada be able to accommodate James Washington in his desire for more playing time?

James Washington may have answered a key question yesterday by choosing not to answer it. When a question came up about the report that he had requested a trade, he said that it was a private conversation, but the existence of a conversation, private or otherwise, necessitates that a conversation was had.

Whether he formally requested a trade or simply expressed dissatisfaction with the number of opportunities he gets, I would imagine that most would understand if he felt some frustration, on a human level. He is entering a contract year and isn’t scheduled to get a ton of opportunities. Who could be content with that?

And so the question becomes, what can the Steelers do about it? Washington did say that his role has been discussed. It falls primarily upon first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who will hold the most responsibility in terms of the play-calling and the personnel in the game.

Can he get the wide receivers in and out of the game enough to give a fourth wide receiver an acceptable number of opportunities—while also taking advantage of the two-tight end possibilities that the acquisition of Pat Freiermuth presents? This will not be an easy juggling act, but it’s a dilemma other teams would be envious of.

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