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James Washington Continues Strong Preseason Performance

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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.

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.

Steelers

Zach Banner Announces Self-imposed Social Media Ban Until he Signs New Deal

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Zach Banner is sending a clear message about his priorities ahead of the 2021 NFL season. Banner, who is a free agent and looking for a new deal with the Steelers, tweeted that he is going to stay off social media until he officially signs on the dotted line.

Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault. He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. Banner now hopes to return to Pittsburgh and be the missing piece the Steelers offensive line desperately needs.

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Rooney: Steelers Plan to Return to St. Vincent for 2021 Training Camp

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There is plenty that remains up in the air about the 2021 NFL offseason, but the Pittsburgh Steelers still have plans to resume one of their enduring traditions that was broken by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Steelers were forced to forgo their trip to the campus of St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 2020 due to the NFL’s rules regarding keeping players isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s unclear how much those restrictions will change for the NFL teams this summer, but as things stand as of today, the Steelers are still making plans to return to the Laurel Highlands for the team’s annual training camp this summer.

“As we sit here today, our plan is to have training camp in Latrobe,” team president Art Rooney II said to Steelers.com on Friday. “We still have a ways to go to get there, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that’s going to be able to happen. We’re still hopeful we’re going to have some form of offseason program, and it’s probably not going to start on time but I think it’s important particularly for the young players that we get back to having an offseason program and then a full training camp and preseason games. I think we need to have that to help the young players continue to develop.”

Displaced from their usual bucolic summer home and from UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side due to capacity limitations, the Steelers spent the 2020 training camp and preseason at Heinz Field.

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NFL Network Analysts Call Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger 3rd-Best in AFC North

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It appears that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is likely to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers, with both Roethlisberger’s agent and team president Art Rooney II making public statements that each party desires a return for 2021 this week.

But how much of a difference-maker will Roethlisberger be? That depends on his level of play this coming season.

NFL Network analysts and former NFL players Willie McGinest and LaDainian Tomlinson each ranked the quarterbacks of the AFC North and both said they think Roethlisberger is the third-best quarterback in the division, behind Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield.

“I’m not taking anything away from Ben,” McGinest said. “Lamar Jackson is special and I put Baker in front of Ben because of what we’ve seen in the progression of Baker the last couple of years. … I see him getting better and Ben fighting father time, with the skills diminishing just a little bit.”

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Tomlinson said. “We’ve seen, in spurts, Big Ben play well. He started out hot. But he didn’t finish so well. … He looked old and beat up toward the end of the season. I’m just not sure that improves.”

Statistically, Roethlisberger finished first amongst the four AFC North passers in completion percentage, but he was fourth in yards per attempt and third in passer rating and QBR. Pro Football Focus ranked Roethlisberger last of the division’s four starters in 2020.

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