Pittsburgh Steelers fans have been seeing rookie wide receiver James Washington on the field a lot this season but the receiver has been lacking one important thing. Production. Washington has been in on 331 plays (51.88% of all offensive plays) and has seven receptions on 19 targets. Have his paltry totals been due to play calling or a lack of trust by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger or the lack of getting open? An offensive weapon not being used against the Jacksonville Jaguars may hinder the Steelers from keeping their winning streak alive. Steelers fans do not want to be reminded again that 42 offensive points might not be enough to win a game against Jacksonville. Cutting back Washington’s snap counts while increasing the Steelers use of two tight ends may be the firepower the Steelers need if the game ends up being a shootout. No time like the present to carry out more two tight ends and sending an unproductive Washington to the bench.
The Steelers passing game is humming along with the sixth most passing yards, sixth most pass attempts and seventh most passing TDs in the NFL. On Sunday Pittsburgh will need every weapon on the field when they face the Jaguars and their top-ranked pass defense. Steelers fans can still remember the bitter taste in their mouths at the hands of the Jaguars during last season’s playoffs. The Steelers put up an impressive 42 points but still fell short.
Tight end Jesse James has seen the field on 58% (370)of offensive snaps and turned those snaps into 22 receptions on 28 targets and a pair of touchdowns. The athletically gifted Vance McDonald has made the most of his 47% (299) of snaps with 30 receptions on 38 targets and a pair of touchdowns.
Week 6 against the Cincinnati Bengals game exemplifies what the Steelers can carry out with two tight ends while limiting Washington’s time on the field. Steelers tight ends accounted for 14 receptions for 129 yards and six drive-extending first downs. While the offense put up 481 total yards, Washington did not secure his lone target on 16 snaps.
Looking at the number of receptions the Jaguars, fans may think this is a poor time to implement a high rate of two tight end. Jacksonville has given up 33 receptions which is fourth best in the league. But those catches have been for 431 yards and six touchdowns. The number of touchdowns is tied for third most in the NFL. In years past, Telvin Smith has been one of the league leaders in defending against the pass. That is not the case this year as he has struggled.
While the Jacksonville defense held Rob Gronkowski to two receptions for 15 yards, Travis Kelce roughed them up (5-100) as did Zach Ertz (4-26-1 TD which was the game-deciding score.). The Indianapolis Colts game is the one that hits home on running with two tight ends. Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron combined for six catches on six targets for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
Pittsburgh sits second in the AFC and would earn a first-round bye in the playoffs. A win would not only keep them there but also keeps their confidence sky high. A loss could throw them back behind the Houston Texans and the New England Patriots not to mention within striking distance of the Cincinnati Bengals. With seven games to go there are plenty of stumbling blocks left on the Steelers schedule.
Limiting the snaps of an unproductive Washington while using two tight ends against a vulnerable Jaguars defense just makes sense when connecting the dots. Using James and McDonald as the Steelers did against the Bengals will go a long way to wrapping up a much-needed road victory. A win against the Jaguars will also dull the pain stemming from that fateful 45-42 loss last January and inch closer to evening the series between the two teams which Jacksonville leads 14-11.