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
Don’t look now, but James Washington is (not so) quietly moving his way up the receiving chart for the Pittsburgh Steelers following a four-game stint during which he has caught 16 passes for over 300 yards with two touchdowns. Considering he had never caught more than three passes in any of his first 20 games prior to this stretch, that is significant.
With his three-catch, 98-yard, one-touchdown game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Washington is now second on the team in receiving yardage with 467 on the season, behind only JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was idle for the game due to a concussion and knee injury. The Steelers’ top wideout only has 38 receptions (one more than Jaylen Samuels) for 524 yards on the year, with three touchdowns.
The second-year wide receiver now has 26 receptions on the season for 467 yards and two touchdowns. He is on pace to finish the year with about 40 catches for 700 yards and three touchdowns, but if he continues his more recent pace, it should be closer to 56 receptions for 800-plus yards and four to five touchdowns.
It’s been a long haul for the second-round pick, but things are starting more and more to turn in his favor as he continues to make some big plays for the offense. His opportunities are still relatively limited—he has never had more than seven targets in a game, and averages about five—but he is making more plays that come his way—and is getting better balls, as well.
For a long while, I have held the believe that Washington is the sort of player who greatly benefits from the positive reinforcement of tangible success. He is having that success now, and is being fueled by the confidence that it brings. That could only mean good things for the offense and for his future.
And it never hurts to have a highlight-reel long touchdown complete with a stiff-arm that sends a defender spilling to the ground.