Even as the Pittsburgh Steelers search for answers at a position here and there, they still find themselves short a ball or two, somehow. As they figure out how to work around the loss of slot receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, they are also addressing questions about certain players perhaps not being used enough, or as much as they would like.
Early on, there was a report, for example, claiming that wide receiver James Washington wanted to be traded because he was not getting on the field and he wasn’t happy with his role. Tight end Eric Ebron recently admitted—when he was directly asked by a reporter—that it was sometimes hard not to ask for more opportunities than he’s getting. But it’s not easy to accommodate everyone and get everybody contributing significantly in any given week.
“Impact is obviously what you do on those key plays when you get a chance. And chances are what are hard”, offensive coordinator Matt Canada said on Thursday, via transcript. “We’ve got a lot of good skill players and everybody wants the ball more, everybody wants to run it more, throw it more, more tight ends, more wideouts. We all want more, which is a great situation. There’s only one ball”.
There is nothing wrong with having a bunch of skill position players who are eager to contribute, of course, until it causes problems. And to be clear, at least from an external point of view, there haven’t been any problems about usage.
But fans have certainly questioned usage here and there, particularly with respect to rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth and about Washington, whom a minority of fans still appear to be convinced is actually the team’s best wide receiver, and would show it if he just got the chance.
The good thing is that the Steelers are coming out of their bye week, and the coaching staff will have had the opportunity to self-scout and evaluate what took place over the first six weeks of the season. That includes quantifying the performance of the rookies, and deciding what their workload should be going forward.
Of course, running back Najee Harris and wide receiver Diontae Johnson are going to get the most touches. On a good day, Chase Claypool is going to get a lot of work, as well. Freiermuth certainly has the chance to become a relatively high-volume guy going forward, as well, as he steps partially into that Smith-Schuster role.
As for the rest? Well, they’ll have to fight for the one ball they have to use.