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2020 Offseason Questions: Will James Washington Emerge As Deep Threat In 2020?

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: Will James Washington emerge as an effective deep threat with Ben Roethlisberger in 2020?

The Steelers talked about Washington as a potential deep threat when they drafted him in 2018. To date, he has caught 14 total passes when the ball was thrown at least 15 yards in the air. When they drafted Chase Claypool in the second round in April, they talked about him as a deep threat, discussing it as an element the offense lacked last year.

So the question is, why was that deep-threat element lacking? How much is Washington to blame for that? As we wrote about yesterday, he had among the most deep-pass incompletions in the league last season in which it was the fault of the quarterback rather than the receiver.

But he struggled with Ben Roethlisberger in 2018 as well, during a year in which the quarterback threw for over 5000 yards and put two wide receivers in the Pro Bowl. Granted, he was a rookie, and his rookie struggles were obvious.

Last year, of course, he was robbed of quality quarterback play, and nobody had much success on deep balls, though he had more than the other wide receivers on the team. He did show growth overall as a wide receiver, so the hope is that with Roethlisberger back, he will continue that growth.

But will he be a legitimate deep threat, the kind that will, by the end of the season, cause defensive coordinators to take notice of where he is on the field? Or will they be waiting on Claypool to step up?

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