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 put together strong games back to back.
Explanation: Expectations are high for anybody who is drafted in the first 60 picks of a draft, which is the case for James Washington. He is in his second season, however, and still has yet to really come into his own or emerge as a clear starter. He is, however, coming off of his best game, and has the benefit of playing with his college quarterback in Mason Rudolph.
Washington, truth be told, strikes me as a guy who doubts himself. I think he is somebody who would greatly benefit from the positive reinforcement of having a good outing, which is, of course, what he just had. He caught four passes on just four targets, including some very difficult catches, for 69 yards. Those are career-highs for both categories, and it’s just the second time he’s caught every passes in a game in which he was targeted more than twice.
The fact that Jalen Ramsey is likely going to be shadowing JuJu Smith-Schuster for most of tomorrow’s game also suggests that the targets are going to be largely going in other directions. And I think Rudolph is ready to feed his former teammate. He said after Sunday’s game that it was good to see him energized again, or something to that effect.
The targets have always been going in other directions. To the running backs. Fewer targets for Smith-Schuster likely just means more for Jaylen Samuels, who was targeted 13 times this past week. And Diontae Johnson has more catches than Washington, the rookie having a bigger impact.
Johnson is playing more than is Washington, with Johnny Holton getting some work in. Ryan Switzer was even filtering back into the offense. Washington hasn’t yet put together back-to-back games in his career, even though he has had some good performances, both late last season and earlier this year. He made some tough catches on Sunday, but I don’t see this as a catalyst for suddenly something very different.