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Why James Washington Was a No-Show during the Steelers’ Season Opener

James Washington wasn’t targeted for the first time in four football seasons.



Despite being last year’s Biletnikoff winner and the team’s second round pick, James Washington was a virtual no-show during the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season opener.

After a promising offseason and a highlight-filled preseason, Washington has apparently slid down the Steelers’ receiver depth chart. But why?

During a rain-soaked 21-21 tie with the Browns in Cleveland, Washington appeared in just 11 snaps on offense (mostly during overtime) and was not targeted once by Ben Roethlisberger.

Washington did see the field on five plays for the return team, but the rookie didn’t exactly wow anyone with his special teams acumen (not to out-do his alma mater, I’m sure), and apparently dangerously stood in front of a bouncing punt that almost hit him.

I guess it’s somewhat understandable. Washington hasn’t had much time for special teams over the last four years.

Newly-acquired wideout Justin Hunter took the No. 3 receiver snaps for Pittsburgh behind Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Washington came in fourth, but for most of the game was behind even Ryan Switzer who finished with seven offensive snaps but was on the field before the former Poke.

But before you sell all of your presidential stock, it’s important to remember that last year’s Steeler rookie sensation JuJu Smith-Schuster — who finished with 917 yards and seven TDs — played just 25 offensive offensive snaps during his NFL debut, and also wasn’t targeted.

Washington is also still catching up after an abdominal injury that took him out of the Steelers’ third preseason game and saw him sidelined for the fourth. Ray Fittipaldo, who covers the Steelers for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, doesn’t seem too down on the rookie’s long-term prospects based on one game.

Here he is addressing the much-tweeted question about Washington’s lack of offensive impact in a postgame chat.

Washington had an abdominal injury from the Carolina game. I think that’s the main reason he wasn’t used a lot. The Steelers need him to get healthy and to become the third receiver. Justin Hunter isn’t going to cut it. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

Washington may have had zero stats to show for his NFL debut but it’s early. He’s got plenty of time to build his legacy in the Steel City, even if he didn’t start his career out with a bang.

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