Pittsburgh Steelers receiver James Washington has been the subject of many debates as the regular season inches closer to its arrival. Washington has undoubtedly dealt with high expectations since being selected by Pittsburgh as a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, expectations that were molded by JuJu Smith-Schuster’s strong rookie campaign in 2017.
Bt Washington’s rookie year was met with criticism, as the Oklahoma State product recorded just 16 receptions for 217 yards and one touchdown last season despite playing in nearly 50% of the team’s offensive snaps. Following the signing of receiver Donte Moncrief, many suggested the organization may be weary of Washington’s minor contributions.
After failing to meet expectations during his rookie season, 2019 appears to be a pivotal year for Washington’s growth as a pass catcher.
Washington’s answer for his critics? Four catches, 84 yards and a touchdown in his preseason debut in last week’s action against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While fans were giddy about his performance, head coach Mike Tomlin re-assured that the Steelers were looking for more than a one game show.
Tomlin when asked after that first preseason game about what the team would like to see during the rest of Washington’s preseason action:
“A high level of consistency in play, to look like a guy that has done a lap around the track like we are asking of all guys moving into their second year.”
Consistency is key in the NFL, and in order for Washington to assert himself as the Steelers’ secondary option behind Smith-Schuster, the ability to string together consecutive strong performances is imperative. On Saturday night, Washington did just that.
Washington led the Steelers in receiving yards for the second straight week, hauling in 78 yards on four receptions. Although failing to score a touchdown in Week 2 of the preseason, Washington managed to establish himself as a formidable threat on the field.
.@steelers @JamesWashington @CowboyFB is going to be the next WR to step up and be a factor with the #Steelers. The name of his game is COMPETE, in the quietest manner possible. No noise from #13, only production. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/Oj99PFB53s
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) August 18, 2019
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) August 18, 2019
While two weeks still remain for the Steelers coaching staff to organize their depth chart, the early performances of Washington have elevated him to No. 2 talk in Pittsburgh.
If our initial glances of Washington gives any indication of what 2019 may look like, the Steelers may again have the league’s next break-out receiver.