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
While there is an obvious and understandable tendency to want to focus on the negatives in the wake of a significant and frustrating loss, the reality is that not everything about Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills was terrible. While the defense did give up a critical late score, after all, they still ultimately held Buffalo to 17 points. That should be a win under normal circumstances.
Normal circumstances don’t include five giveaways, however. That was clearly the difference in the game, because the Steelers were able to make plays through the air at times, with second-year James Washington continuing to be the chief exporter of big catches in the passing game for the Steelers in recent weeks.
While his numbers were a bit down a week ago, the former second-round pick had another significant game against the Bills, catching five passes for 83 yards, including a long of 34 yards, as well as a 32-yard grab, both coming on deep targets down either sideline.
The rest of his work all came in the short-area game, reeling in catches of two, seven, and eight yards, all on first and 10. Devlin Hodges threw six incompletions in his direction, including four deep passes, two of which were intercepted, but the failures of those plays were on components of the process other than the intended target.
On the season, Washington now has 39 receptions for 694 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 17.8 yards per catch and 10.1 yards per target. While his overall catch rate still needs to improve (that’s often not on the receiver), and it was down this past game, it has generally been trending in a positive direction as well.
He has 149 more receiving yards than Diontae Johnson, the next-closest on the team, and with two games remaining, should have a relatively easy time finishing the year as the Steelers’ leading receiver. His showing in 2019 hopefully bodes well for the offense in 2020 when Ben Roethlisberger returns, clean-shaven and with a shiny new arm.