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

October 6, 2018

Steelers receiver James Washington celebrates his first NFL touchdown against the Chiefs second quarter Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 at Heinz Field.

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 targeted 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.

“I like where Justin’s at.”

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