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Steelers News: It is time for a No. 3 wide receiving option to emerge

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the loser column after a poor performance vs. their divisional rival, the Baltimore Ravens, at Heinz Field in prime time in Week 4. With the Atlanta Falcons coming into Heinz Field for a Week-5 matchup, the Steelers will need to improve on their 1-2-1 record.

Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-Gold Links article.

This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet, and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.

Today we talk about how the Steelers are lacking a true No. 3 receiving option on offense. Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster are clearly No. 1 and No. 2, but someone else needs to emerge to help the offense click on all cylinders. In the past, it was Le’Veon Bell and/or Eli Rogers, but coming into the season it was James Washington who was expected to fill that role. Who will step up? Vance McDonald? Jesse James?

Only time will tell...

Let’s get to the news:

Steelers looking for more production out of No. 3 WR James Washington

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Through four games this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten 60 catches for 688 yards from their top two wide receivers.

After that, though, there’s been a precipitous drop-off. Ryan Switzer, James Washington, Justin Hunter and Darrius Heyward-Bey have combined for 110 receiving yards.

Hunter has been inactive the past three games, Heyward-Bey has an ankle injury and the majority of Switzer’s receiving production has come when he lined up in the backfield as a de facto running back. So that leaves Washington, a rookie second-round pick, as the logical candidate for production from a Steelers receiver not named Antonio Brown or JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Through four games, Washington has been limited to five catches for 49 yards and a touchdown, but his usage has been trending up.

“He’s starting to get (significant) snaps,” offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said.

Washington played 47 of the Steelers’ 62 offensive snaps during this past Sunday’s loss to Baltimore. But he was targeted by just four of Ben Roethlisberger’s 47 passes (Brown and Smith-Schuster were 11 times each).

Still, Fichtner insists Washington is getting open.

“Sometimes he’s not always in a primary spot,” Fichtner said, “sometimes he is.

“I don’t know if it’s anything in particular that we’re trying to do or not do, but he’s actually improved.”

With Heyward-Bey not practicing thus far this week and looking as if he won’t play Sunday against Atlanta, Hunter might again earn a spot in the lineup.

“He’s an option, no doubt,” Fichtner said.

Tim Benz: Steelers don’t trust James Conner as much as they say

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The more the Steelers talk about James Conner, the more they promote his attributes as a running back.

If the coaches and players honestly believe what they are saying, it’s time they start buying into their own sales job.

Because the numbers on-field don’t support the backing given to Conner between games.

Without Le’Veon Bell as the go-to running back, the Steelers either can’t run or are afraid to try.

Maybe both.

Whatever the case, the Steelers rank 27th in yards per rushing attempt in the NFL and 28th in total rushing attempts.

The hype surrounding Conner started in training camp when it became apparent Bell would be sitting out activities in Latrobe for a second straight year. Every offensive player or coach at Saint Vincent College drooled while gushing about Conner’s improved blocking, hands, speed, decisiveness, health and conditioning.

The praise ramped up as it became apparent Bell wouldn’t be reporting in time for the season opener in Cleveland. Conner rewarded that praise by totaling 192 yards from scrimmage in that contest.

He was excellent.

Until that fumble in the fourth quarter that turned the game around.

Maybe that was it. Maybe that’s the reason. Whatever the case, since that moment, the Steelers haven’t treated their running game with Conner the same as they used to with Bell.

They’ll protest to the contrary, though.

“James Conner has been really solid,” Mike Tomlin said Tuesday. “Both with the ball in his hands and without.”

If that’s true, then he should get the ball more.

Falcons are talking about AB, T.J., Ben & more

When the Steelers take on the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Heinz Field it will be a matchup of two explosive offenses that are looking to get back on track and start stacking some wins.

Falcons Coach Dan Quinn knows the weapons the Steelers bring to the table, starting with but not limited to Antonio Brown.

“Right off the bat it’s the explosiveness their team has,” said Quinn. “As good and explosive as Antonio is, they have a full complement of guys they use at receiver and tight ends and backs. They make it very challenging because of the different guys they go to and the matchups. They have a full arsenal and full stable of guys they like to feature and use.”

The Falcons also weighed in on JuJu Smith-Schuster, T.J Watt and more.

Running back Devonta Freeman on Antonio Brown:

“AB is explosive. You already know AB is explosive. I have nothing but respect for AB. I know his work ethic. I know him personally. I know where he comes from. I know he is a competitor. I know he likes to play. I know he likes to win. I know he likes to perform at a high level.”

Quinn on what makes JuJu Smith-Schuster a difficult matchup:

“He really finishes. With the ball in his hands, the finishing elements, the physicality. You can see in his background there is defense for sure. He’ll go and finish out. The speed is there, but there is speed with a number of the receivers in their offense. The speed in which they play. But the way JuJu finishes, the physicality, those are things that at the end of the catch, the end of the run, that he certainly caught my attention from a competitor. You better bring it because he certainly is.”

Quarterback Matt Ryan on what he sees from the Steelers defense:

“They’re some talented players at all levels of the defense. Cam (Heyward) in the front-seven – disruptive player, very physical, they’ve got some good outside linebackers in their base schemes come defensive ends and they’re sub-defense. Talented rushers, physical guys, very athletic. So they’ve got some good players on the backend. They’ve been dealing with some injuries across the board on defense but they’ve got some tough schemes to go against as players.”