Updated 31 minutes ago
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger offered some strong words on Tuesday for wide receiver James Washington, whose deep pass drop on Sunday was the latest miscalculation in an unproductive rookie season.
Washington left the feet and tried to make a diving catch in the third quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.
In his weekly 93.7-FM radio segment, Roethlisberger criticized Washington not only for dropping the ball, but for leaving his foot when he could have kept running.
"He has to do it," said Roethlisberger. "I just think he did not trust his hands, for some reason, he jumped / dived in. I'm not really sure what he was doing, we watched him (in the movie), and the coach attacked him pretty well yesterday.
"We took a long hard look at him. James needs to go through that, and it's a touchdown. "
The play happened in the second and 8 of the 41 Steelers with 4:40 remaining in the third quarter of the series after the Broncos tied the score, 17-17. Running down the right sideline, Washington had his hands on the ball, but dropped it in the Broncos 22.
After another incomplete pass for Antonio Brown, the Steelers punished him.
Of the 10 players who were selected for the passes on Sunday, Washington was the only player who did not have a trap. It was 0 for 3 in passes thrown in his way. For the season, Washington has captured only eight of the 25 goals, a rate of 32 percent that is the lowest among NFL receivers with at least 11 goals, according to Pro Football Focus.
"Yes, he's a rookie, but you're not going to be out there if you're not going to make those plays for us," Roethlisberger said.
The lack of production of the second draft selection has led to a reduction in playing time. After playing in 86 percent and 79 percent of the offensive snaps against Baltimore and Carolina, respectively, Washington was on the field for 54 percent of the snapshots against Jacksonville, and that amount was reduced to 23 percent against Denver.
Washington was on the field for the final offense when Roethlisberger threw an interception to Broncos nose tackle Shelby Harris.
"He needs to have confidence in himself," Roethlisberger said. "When you have confidence in yourself, you use your hands and catch the ball. I felt that when he jumped and dived, whatever you call him, he showed a lack of confidence in himself and in his hands. "
Roethlisberger still believes Washington can produce for the Steelers in the final five weeks of the season. Coach Mike Tomlin, however, did not commit Tuesday when asked if Washington would be on the active list this Sunday for the Steelers game against San Diego.
"I have confidence in him," said Roethlisberger. "I would not have thrown it at him if I had not."
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Joe Rutter is a writer of Tribune-Review. You can contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.