Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver James Washington still has a lot to learn about being a professional athlete. Fortunate, he has a player very similar to him in the same circumstances that just went through the same transition from the college level to the pros that can help him out.
Even though JuJu Smith-Schuster is actually younger, he was able to make a pretty smooth transition from a three-year starter at USC to gradually working his way full-time into the starting lineup for a Super Bowl-contending team by the end of his rookie season, doing so most of the way while not even being able to drink an alcoholic beverage legally.
While Smith-Schuster certainly has those youthful characteristics about him—including but not limited to his being anointed the team’s celebration coordinator—he is all business when it comes to his craft. He worked tirelessly to get his body and his mind prepared to contribute right away.
So he has had a few pointers for Washington as he prepares for his first NFL training camp. He stressed the importance of conditioning to the rookie, according to Lauren Kirschman. He also has to be prepared to be versatile, and physical.
“He has to be able to play inside and out”, Smith-Schuster told the Penn Live reporter about his new teammate. “He has to be able to block linebackers, safeties, going down in the trenches and doing those things. But also being on the outside, being able to run routes and catching balls over the top.
The 2017 second-round pick was able to do both of those things quite successfully during his rookie season, recording a handful of highlights in each category, beating a few cornerbacks over the top on go routes and knocking a few safeties on their butts.
Not that Washington has ever really given any indication that he is going to be the kind of player that needs that sort of outside advice or motivation. All the motivation he has really needed so far is to see how hard Antonio Brown works, just to know how hard he has to work.
The rookie told Kirschman that came to Pittsburgh already in shape and has spent his time working with his strength coach, training and running. Coming from an up-tempo offense in Oklahoma State, in fact, he has found the Steelers’ use of the huddle refreshing during the spring.
“It gives me a chance to catch my breath and then get going again”, he said. I love that. it helps with the play calling, too, because you got time for your brain to process the whole play”.
Washington will most likely be the Steelers’ third wide receiver come opening day working alongside Brown and Smith-Schuster. He has already been running with the first-team offense the entire time he has been here, and I wouldn’t expect that to change.