Every year at around this time of the offseason Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster likes to give his assessment of a few of the younger players on the roster and especially the ones he feels are making progress during the team’s OTA practices. This year is no different as on Thursday Foster sat down with Mike Prisuta of DVE Radio and steelers.com to share his annual thoughts on younger players on the roster.
After talking briefly and positively about a few of the Steelers younger rookie offensive linemen and the team’s first-round draft pick this year, inside linebacker Devin Bush, Foster then made sure to recognize a second-year player who he believes has had a very good offseason to date. That second-year player is none other than wide receiver James Washington, the Steelers 2018 second-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State.
“James Washington, you can tell a difference in him this year,” Foster told Prisuta. “I’m excited for that kid, very excited for him.
Foster was then asked what Washington is doing specifically this offseason that has him so excited about the young wide receiver.
“He lit it up [last year during OTAs] on just raw talent. Now he’s fully thinking about it,” Foster said of Washington. “You see his technique come into it. He’s gotta be one of the highest, quickest jumpers I’ve ever seen and he just has a sense of calm over him. And that’s what it took for me, it was about a year before I actually got comfortable and he looks like he’s getting comfortable with what he’s doing.”
Foster’s comments about Washington certainly should be sweet music to the ears of everyone reading this post. After all, while Washington did seemingly have a good set of rookie offseason practices a year ago and followed those up with a nice training camp showing and a few big catches during the preseason, he didn’t do much of anything during the regular season until late in the year. His rookie season ended with him only catching 16 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown despite playing just a little more than 47% of all 2018 offensive snaps.
Obviously, Washington is expected to take a huge step forward in his second season and this past offseason he dropped roughly 15 pounds in an effort to get faster.
“I feel like I know more of the plays. … I feel I’m quicker off the ball,” Washington said during the team’s first week of OTA practices, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “I’m able to run with everybody.”
If Washington can now become the deep passing threat in 2019 he was during his four seasons at Oklahoma State, that would certainly take some pressure off the team’s new No. 1 wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Last season, Washington only managed just a few deep pass receptions and both came in the final three weeks of the regular season.
“Last year it wasn’t there because I was a different person,” Washington said over a week ago. “I feel like a different person. Ten times different. I feel like a veteran even though I am only in my second year. It feels a lot better.”