How impressed have you been with the play of Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver James Washington so far in the preseason and are you bit surprised by what you’ve seen out of the team’s second-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State to this point? Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was asked a question similar to that one during his Tuesday afternoon appearance on the ‘Fantasy Alarm Show’ on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio.
“James has done a real good job of progressing throughout the preseason,” Colbert said. “It’s not surprising being that the career and the type of career he had there at Oklahoma State. He’s been able to carry it over to the NFL, which, again, not surprising, but sometimes as many big plays as he’s made usually doesn’t occur this early in the preseason. So, it’s encouraging, but the great thing about James is he’s just a humble young man that just wants to keep getting better and as you guys know, that’s what you need to do at this stage of their careers and that’s what we’re hopeful he’ll continue to do.”
While Washington has indeed had a great start to his rookie season that has included him catching 7 passes for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Steelers first two preseason games of 2018, the young player is still having to adjust to a few key things at the NFL level with one of those being him having to learn and know the roles of every wide receiver position in the offense.
“Knowing the entire concept of the play, from X all the way to Z. You’ve got to know what everybody’s doing,” Washington said recently, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “I’ve been moving around quite a bit. It’s been putting stress on me at night and before practice. I’ll be in my playbook and learning stuff. Just meet with the quarterbacks, get with them and develop study habits.”
Washington is also learning to adjust to starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and what he expects his wide receivers to do on certain plays as well.
“I’m not used to a quarterback throwing the ball in a window 1 foot wide,” said Washington about adjusting to Roethlisberger’s style of play.
Due to Washington’s fast progression this offseason, be it expected or not, it’s more than likely that he’ll receive substantial playing time on offense starting in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns. With Roethlisberger also expected to make his 2018 preseason debut Saturday at Heinz Field against the Tennessee Titans, I suspect Washington will be on the field with the starting quarterback quite a bit and ultimately be targeted a few times in those first two or three offensive series.
Washington, due to his humble demeanor and farm boy-type work ethic, makes him an easy young Steelers player to root for as does his ability to make combative catches and deliver big plays, both of which he did a lot of during his four years at Oklahoma State. In short, none of us should be surpised by what he’s already accomplished so far in the preseason and why he appears to be a perfect fit in Pittsburgh.
While Washington still has to prove that he can play and produce consistently at the NFL level when games start really mattering, it certainly appears as though that he’ll be able to do just that based on what we’ve already observed from him during the preseason. For what it’s worth, one of his teammates, veteran wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, likes Washington’s chances based on what he’s observed from the rookie since he was drafted.
“The kid can catch,” said Hewyard-Bey, according to Fowler. “I keep telling him, keep displaying that. Some people have that, some don’t. It’s a hard thing to learn. But he has a big range, and hopefully he can do that on Sunday.”
Hopefully he can, indeed.