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Barbecue And Big Plays: What Drove The Steelers To Selecting WR James Washington

The Pro Day circuit is a long, grueling six weeks. Coaches and scouts are in a new city almost every day, airports suck, and you’re trying to keep track of the numbers, the names, the tidal wave of information the scouting process provides.

One upside? If you land in the right place, some stick-to-your-ribs home cookin’. That’s what James Washington and Mike Tomlin had at dinner the night before his Pro Day workout. Apparently, a good first impression for the head coach.

“He asked me what I wanted to eat and I brought up barbecue,” Washington told Missi Matthews in a recent interview. “And I guess Coach Tomlin is a big barbecue fan. We went to the Rib Crib in Stillwater and had some good barbecue and a pretty good conversation.”

Even after the dinner and the interest shown in him during the pre-draft process, Washington wasn’t sure if Pittsburgh was really on their radar. The draft is full of smokescreens, misdirections, and they had plenty of interest in teammate Mason Rudolph, too.

“I didn’t even picture the Steelers. I had dinner with them but I never worked out, never really talked with them. When they came out of the blue and got me, I was shocked. After the dinner though, with all the coaches I met with, everyone felt genuine. It felt like I belonged with them.”

After dealing Martavis Bryant to Oakland, the Steelers had to address the “Z” receiver position, the outside receiver normally on the right side of the formation. Someone who can win vertically but show toughness going across the middle of the field and a willingness to mix it up in the run game. Washington checks all those boxes, something he credits getting up at 6:30 AM to work on his farm for instilling in him.

“Growing up on a farm, it takes a lot of hard work and effort…I can remember waking up at 6:30 in the morning, my dad stopping at the convenience store getting coffee. Asking me, ‘if you want something to eat, you better get it now. Because we’re not going to be back in for awhile.'”

They say the key to a man’s heart is through his stomach. For Tomlin, more specifically, it’s apparently a big plate of ribs. And a couple of long touchdown catches.

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