2020 Offseason Questions: Is James Washington Being Overlooked?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Is James Washington being overlooked?

While it’s hard to convey a whole lot of optimism about a team’s offense after it was one of the very worst in the NFL a year ago—despite massive differences from one year to the next—there are many who expect the Steelers on this side of the ball to be significantly better than in 2019, and not only because of the return of Ben Roethlisberger.

The team has three young wide receivers, for example, who made significant contributions, with JuJu Smith-Schuster the most experienced, Diontae Johnson with the most receptions and touchdowns, and then there’s James Washington, who had the most yards.

Smith-Schuster, despite being the youngest of the three, is the ‘old guard’, the guy who’s been there and done that, gone to the Pro Bowl. The expectation is that he will look much more like his Pro Bowl form this year than what he did (through injury) in 2019.

Johnson has a lot of hype heading into his second season as well. But are we jumping the gun with the evident assumption that he is going to be the team’s number two receiver over Washington? Are we dismissing the third-year man’s capacity for growth?

In today’s offenses, there is room for three receivers to make significant impacts, so to a certain extent, the discussion is moot, but not entirely. Johnson will surely get more targets, but could Washington have more impact plays, as less of a possession receiver?

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