Justin Hunter’s shoulder injury opened the door for wide receiver James Washington to salvage something of his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Washington, the team’s second-round draft pick, will return to the roster after being inactive Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. It coincides with the Steelers placing Hunter on injured reserve.
Tomlin said Hunter’s injury provides “an opportunity for things to boomerang back around” for Washington.
“I’m kind of excited about that, to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin said.
Before Sunday, Washington had three catches on 14 targets over his previous six games. He was benched after leaving his feet and dropping a deep pass from Ben Roethlisberger in a 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.
“Such is life in this game at this level,” Tomlin said. “Sometimes you get knocked down, you’ve got to get in the lab and work and oftentimes that is done in obscurity. You wait for your opportunity to get back on and ride again and show what you are capable of.
“It wasn’t a lot of time on the shelf for James, so it’s going to be exciting to watch him get back on this week and take advantage of someone else’s misfortune and be a positive contributor of our efforts.”
Washington has eight catches for 77 yards and a touchdown in 10 games this season.
Hunter replaced Washington as the No. 3 receiver against the Chargers and didn’t have a catch on three targets. He played 18 snaps before he landed awkwardly on his shoulder in the end zone while attempting to catch an overthrown pass from Roethlisberger.
Hunter will finish the year with three catches for 21 yards in five games.
The Steelers replaced Hunter on the 53-man roster by promoting running back Trey Edmunds from the practice squad. Five wide receivers are on the roster, and Tomlin said there is a “possibility” the Steelers will activate slot receiver Eli Rogers from the physically unable to perform list.