Throughout the preseason, there was a promising trend arising for the Pittsburgh Steelers offense. Rookie wide receiver James Washington was making big plays consistently, looking like the offensive threat he was drafted to be. His chemistry with rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph had the future of the Steelers offensive looking great. But, more importantly, Washington was looking like he was ready to be a contributor right away. In week one, he was barely on the field. It wasn’t the start to Washington’s career that fans were expecting, but that time will come sooner than later.
Future of James Washington
Why He Didn’t Play
After barely seeing Washington in the game, fans were left wondering why he didn’t play. Head coach Mike Tomlin addressed the question (around 18:15) at his weekly Tuesday press conference. Of Washington, Tomlin said, “He’s just gotta keep working.” He went on to say “He’s made some plays in preseason football… He played some on Sunday… It’s just the natural maturation process of development…” Essentially, Tomlin was telling us that Washington didn’t play because of his youth and experience. The team will likely follow the same development path with Washington as they did last year with JuJu Smith-Schuster, increasing snaps week by week.
Another reason for Washington’s lack of snaps on Sunday could potentially be a lack of chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger. In the only preseason game that Roethlisberger played in, Washington didn’t have any receptions and was only targeted twice. The only time that the two have really had to build chemistry has been in training camp. Training camp can only go so far in producing chemistry between a veteran quarterback and a young receiver. As the two continue to play together, Washington will likely see his playing time increase.
Why He Will Play More
Despite a lack of playing time through one game, Washington will most definitely be a contributor this season. He is just too talented, especially in an offense lacking a top-level deep ball threat. Justin Hunter, the guy in the spot that Washington will eventually take over, didn’t have a great game. He only managed to catch the ball one of the five times he was targeted for a whopping six yards. Hunter simply isn’t the guy to have opposite of Antonio Brown, especially with the role of deep ball threat.
The offense is missing a dynamic deep ball threat with Martavis Bryant gone to Oakland. Washington can be that guy, without a doubt. It’s easy to point out that the offense was bad and that Washington only had 11 snaps. However, it’s just how the Steelers handle things when it comes to rookies. Rookies are typically eased in until it’s clear that the team absolutely needs them. As previously noted, the same exact thing happened with Smith-Schuster last year. And, after the offense’s performance on Sunday, it might already be clear that the team needs James Washington. So, expect his role to be significantly expanded upon in the very near future.
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