A lot is riding on the shoulders of young wide receiver James Washington, and they are somewhat slimmer on the second-year player now after dropping around 15 pounds, as he self-reported to the media recently during OTAs.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers trading away Antonio Brown earlier this offseason, the number two wide receiver position is wide open. JuJu Smith-Schuster will obviously assume the number one role, but Washington, free agent acquisition Donte Moncrief, and perhaps even rookie Diontae Johnson could be vying for that role, if it even functions so simply. The potential for a steady rotation is fairly high.
Nevertheless, Washington is expecting much more from himself following a disappointing rookie season during which he only 16 of the 38 passes that came his way for a total of 217 yards, with one touchdown. While he only had one or two drops, his low catch percentage also involved poor route-running and miscommunications with Ben Roethlisberger, though of course there were several poor or low-percentage throws mixed in as well.
Washington told reporters that he wrote down a list of goals for his second season late last year. That was my top goal, to cut weight, to get faster, he said, and he proceeded to spend weeks working on his fathers farm. Not just for me, but for the team. That was my main goal.
He told Teresa Varley that it wasnt just physical weight that he let go of from last season, however, also relating the mental baggage he was carrying around stemming from the difficulties that he had as a rookie. He is ready to start fresh this offseason.
There were times I would go home, think to myself ways to get better and not let the team down, the former second-round pick said in recalling the 2018 season. I was disappointed last year. I have high expectations for myself and this team has them for me.
The young wide receiver went so far as to say that he feels as though he is a different person this season. Ten times different, he offered. I feel like a veteran even though I am only in my second year. It feels a lot better.
As we have previously detailed, the Steelers under Mike Tomlin have a fairly consistent track record when it comes to expecting wide receiver to make a significant jump in their second seasons with respect to their production.
It didnt really make a great deal of difference how much the wide receiver might have contributed during his rookie season. Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, and Sammie Coates, for example, were virtual non-contributors as rookies in comparison to their second season.