For a lot of people, 2017 second-round draft pick JuJu Smith-Schuster was a breath of fresh air on the Pittsburgh Steelers and at the wide receiver position. His incredible youthful energy clearly affected all of his teammates, as well as the fan base, among the younger generation probably seeing something of themselves in him.
This year’s second-round draft pick, James Washington, could prove to be another nice change of pace, though the odor will be that of the farm, rather than the big city. Hailing from a Samford, TX town that boasts a population of just a few thousand, the wide receiver appears to bring that humble small-town attitude with him into the locker room and on the field.
As he told Jeremy Fowler for ESPN, he grew up helping his father work on farms, talking about the work that he did servicing tractors, which including changing the enormous tires on the substantial machines. And don’t think for a second that he didn’t find ways to take lessons away from that life that he applies to football.
“I’m just kind of like the workhorse”, he told Fowler about what his role has been helping out his father on the various farms they have worked, including one in their own family, growing wheat and cotton. “If anything needs to be heavy lifted or anything needs worked on then I’m the guy”.
It’s not hard to extract from that a sentiment that can be applied to the football field, and he puts those tire-strengthened forearms of his to good use in taking away the football from defensive backs in combat-catch situations, which is one of the areas of the game in which he is already advanced, and ahead of the curve.
Washington has spoken about embracing the physical aspects of the game and making it a strength of his, and that is what the Steelers will be looking to get out of him, not just as a wide receiver, but also as a blocker, similar to how Smith-Schuster was used as a rookie.
On the field, I would expect there to be a lot of similarities between the two young players. Both are very hard workers who are willing and able to do the dirty work, both in the receiving game and in other assignments, but who also have the subtlety in their game to beat you in just about any way under the right circumstances.
Off the field, in terms of their personalities, I would gather that there are some pretty obvious differences, but all that matters is how they sync up on the field, and I’m sure the Steelers are as excited as the fans about seeing what those two young players will be able to do for the offense on the field together at the same time.