Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: WR James Washington
Stock Value: Down
Through five games, James Washington has been targeted 21 times, and has only come up with nine receptions. Similar to his rookie season, he is only catching about 42-43 percent of the targets that head his way, though, again, that’s largely because those coming his way are not catchable.
Part of it is because he gets targeted on a lot of deep throws, and accuracy is going to take a hit on such targets. Part of it is working with three different quarterbacks in five games. But another part of it is that he hasn’t always been on the same page as his quarterbacks. You need to be where your quarterback expects you to be, after all, to make catches.
Most of his success has come when playing with his college teammate, Mason Rudolph, catching six of 11 targets for 77 yards. He caught three of eight targets from Ben Roethlisberger for 63 yards, but he is 0-for-1 with Devlin Hodges.
And chances are he won’t have a chance to expand on that, because the second-year wide receiver is reportedly going to miss a few weeks with a shoulder injury. Yesterday I posited the possibility that by the time he returns, he will have been bumped out of the rotation.
While he has been on the field for two thirds of the Steelers’ offensive snaps, he remains a rare target and sparse contributor. I’m going to assume that he once again is among the bottom of the league in terms of yards per route run.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why he hasn’t been more productive. It doesn’t help when you play with target-goblins like JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Diontae Johnson is already looking like another favorite target because of his ability to get open.
For the moment, he’s starting to remind me of Markus Wheaton, a guy who played a lot but didn’t do a ton in the time that he did play. He had the big-play threat that was only flashed sporadically. Let’s hope when Washington returns from injury, he can show more consistency than all that.