The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Wide receiver James Washington will never be a productive full-time starter in Pittsburgh.
Explanation: Washington was a second-round draft pick last season who started pretty much immediately as the number three receiver behind Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, but productive would be the last thing to describe his rookie season. With Brown gone, there is an opening, but the team also added other options.
It may still be early, but it is looking as though Washington might be one of those players who simply falls by the wayside. With the Steelers having already gone out and gotten Donte Moncrief—who figures to start the season—and drafting Diontae Johnson—who may well finish it—Washington, despite being the 60th-overall pick, can get lost in the shuffle if the doesn’t stand out in games.
He has talked about his improvements and his increased comfort level, but the reality is that the Steelers have already planned ahead for 2019 almost as though he were not there. Ben Roethlisberger has already spent a lot of time working with Moncrief, and don’t be shocked if Eli Rogers or Ryan Switzer open up in the slot, either. Both of them have a good rapport with the quarterback.
As tempting as it may be to blare the Feed Moncrief song, the veteran wide receiver was signed not as The Plan, but rather as Plan B. Plan A is to see what Washington does in his second season, and he is going to be afforded every opportunity to win a starting job. From that point forward, it will be incumbent upon him to produce, but he can do that, in spite of his poor rookie numbers.
It’s quite apparent where, how, and why Washington struggled during his first season in the NFL, and the truth is that none of those were in areas where it would be surprising for a young player to be vulnerable. He played far more than he should have before he was ready in 2018, but there’s no reason he can’t be ready for that role with a full season of experience under his belt, and more trust from Roethlisberger.