Did you listen to Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner yesterday speaking about new wide receiver James Washington? I did, and I couldn’t help but pick up on a couple of things that he had to say about the Oklahoma State product in light of their decision to trade Martavis Bryant.
Not that the Steelers were actively looking to move him, but they ended up with an extra third-round draft pick before the first night of the draft was through when they found a partner in the Oakland Raiders who were hungry to land the talented but troubled wide receiver.
From the sounds of it, the Steelers kind of look at Washington as something rather different. I’m very confident that Fichtner’s comments that he made yesterday during his press conference were not meant to speak directly about Bryant or to criticize Bryant, but some could certainly be read that way.
The most striking contrast in Fichtner’s comments between Bryant and Washington was regarding his expectation that the rookie is somebody that nobody is going to worry about. For however talented Bryant is, he clearly is somebody who required some maintenance. There’s a reason he had to be benched for a game. That’s maintenance.
As for Washington, “he’s not one of those maintenance guys. He’s no-maintenance, really”, according to Ficthner, the team’s new offensive coordinator. “You talk to coaches and you see the games that he’s started and the positions that he’s been in. He’s obviously intelligent. He’s held down his position for a long time there”.
One thing that Bryant also was coming out of college was raw. Not only was he a transfer from a military school initially (for academic reasons), he was the product of a college program that was not known for churning out refined wide receivers, even if DeAndre Hopkins was one of his teammates.
Bryant caught 61 passes for 1354 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns during his college career. Washington had 74 receptions for 1549 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns during his senior season. In all, the rookie played in 52 games, catching 226 passes for 4472 yards and 39 touchdowns. He is a highly productive player who will not have to sit.
“We would expect that he would have that ability to come in and learn and be able to hold down a position pretty quickly”, Fichtner said. Bryant sat for his first six games as a rookie and then when he forced his way into playing time the team had to adjust things to accommodate him.
The offensive coordinator also pointed out that while Washington may not have blazing speed, there is more than one way to win deep. “One by strength, one by technique, and one by willingness and conditioning. And he’s that kind of guy. And you can’t deny what he’s actually done in college”.
So while he may not possess Bryant’s long speed, like JuJu Smith-Schuster, he could still win deep. And in another contract to Bryant, “this is a tough, big, strong hands catcher. A guy that’s actually going to fight for the ball and secure it”.
I realize that this probably reads to some people as a hit piece on Bryant and no amount of justification I put forth in defending against that is going to do any good. But I just couldn’t help thinking of the contrast between these two receivers in Fichtner’s comments in light of how the past two days have played out.