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: Up
Never before in his admittedly not very long career has second-year wide receiver James Washington put together a series of game as he has in the past two weeks. Setting new career-highs in receptions and receiving yards in each one, he literally came within two yards of doubling his season totals through the first seven games in just the last two weeks.
Through the first seven games of the season, Washington caught 10 passes for 161 yards, and had not scored a touchdown. In the past two games, he has caught 10 passes for 159 yards, and added his first touchdowns since Week Two of his rookie year.
He caught four passes for 69 yards against the Indianapolis Colts last week, including a 40-yard jump ball, and all four of his receptions involved a high or relatively high degree of difficulty. He followed that up with six receptions for 90 yards, including a breakaway 34-yard catch-and-run, as well as a three-yard fade reception for the team’s first red-zone passing touchdown caught by somebody other than Vance McDonald.
Granted, he did fumble at the end of that 34-yard play, and he was clearly rather dejected about it right after it happened, though the defense was able to pick him up, forcing not just a three-and-out in response but a scoop-and-score touchdown on a fumble recovery by Minkah Fitzpatrick.
More important is the way that he came back from that. While he didn’t catch a pass in the third quarter (the fumble occurred at the end of the first half), he caught three passes for 40 yards in the fourth quarter, who of which were third-down conversions.
He now has six conversions in third or fourth down on the season. Since Mason Rudolph took over, he has caught 17 of 28 targets from his college teammate for 257 yards and one score, with 13 first downs. Rudolph is averaging 9.2 yards per attempt when targeting him with a 60.7 completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 102.8.