Things have been going well for James Washington lately. Over the course of the past four games, he has caught 16 passes on 23 targets, putting up 306 yards and two touchdowns in the process. He only had 16 receptions for 217 yards and one touchdown throughout the entirety of his rookie season in 2018.
And in his first six games of the 2019 season, he only had 10 receptions on 27 targets for 161 yards, without having gotten into the end zone. In his first 20 career games, he had 26 catches for 383 yards and one touchdown. In the past four, he is averaging four catches for 76.5 yards and .5 touchdowns.
Who knows if he can ever do that on a consistent pace, but if he is ever able to do so, that would translate over 16 games to a 64-reception 1224-yard, eight-touchdown season. The Pittsburgh Steelers believed he was capable of that when they drafted him with the 60th overall pick last year, so they’re surely relieved to start seeing that now.
The highlight so far of his career was his big 79-yard touchdown on Sunday that put the Steelers ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals after falling behind late in the first half. Most of that was yards after the catch, and included a notable stiff arm on Bengals cornerback B.W. Webb.
“Once I caught it, I just tried to look for grass and didn’t see anyone, so, just took off running and saw an opportunity”, he said about the big play after the game, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, before adding that he was “trying to be like Vance”.
He is referring to Vance McDonald, the Steelers’ tight end who is now in his third season with the team. He had a huge highlight-reel 75-yard touchdown for the team last season back in Week Three that saw him stiff arm safety Chris Conte of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that was replayed continuously on sports talk shows. “The Vanimal move”, he called it.
Washington caught two more passes in the game for another 19 yards. He has had at least 49 receiving yards in each of the past four games, and at least three receptions in each one as well. He only had three games with three or more receptions in the first 20 games of his career.
And he’s been doing this, almost all of it, without Ben Roethlisberger, of course. Roethlisberger has been out since the middle of the second game of the season. Washington is gaining valuable confidence and experience working with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. Hopefully, that will make him that much more dangerous for the offense when Roethlisberger returns in 2020.