New Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers coach Darryl Drake knows that he is in an enviable position. He gets to work with Antonio Brown, the greatest player at his position in the game right now, and one who would make any position coach look good at this point in his career.
The entire group is also full of young and promising talent. But one of the burdens he has been tasked with this offseason is getting one of those talents up to speed over the course of a single offseason to be able to contribute significantly and at a high level.
The Steelers used their second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft on Oklahoma State wide receiver James Washington, and it seems pretty clear that the intention is for him to be the team’s number three player right away. Even taking as a given the fact that he is talented, it is still a chore to get a rookie ready to play right off the bat.
“It’s always a challenge, but as a coach, you want that challenge”, Drake said of the prospect of doing just that. “It is, but James has a great deal of ability. He’s very, very talented. Colbert and Mike knew going in what kind of talent that he had, and he hasn’t disappointed us”.
Washington has been working with first-team units all throughout the spring, from rookie minicamp all the way through the team’s mandatory minicamp that ended a week and a half ago. And he has given indications already that he is, or can be, what they expected when they drafted him.
“He’s shown signs of how good he could possibly be. He still has a lot of growing to do”, Drake said, likening the maturation of a rookie wide receiver to the development of a child. “He’s in the infant stages right now, and as he continues to grow, we’re just trying to get him a little bit better, a little bit better, and get him out of that infant stage so when we get to training camp, he’s in preschool”, he told reporters.
“By the time the season starts we want to have him moving on up to where he graduates from high school and on to college level and then becomes a pro going on throughout the season”, Drake went on. “It doesn’t happen overnight. There’s a lot of learning, there’s a lot of growing, there’s a lot of understanding”.
He pointed to the fact that having a talent like Ben Roethlisberger to work with Washington will only help to further accelerate his development, but he has been performing well regardless of the passer.
“He’s demonstrated and shown a great deal of ability , so we’re just going to continue to work with him and help him to grow”, his position coach left off as a final thought.