Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, 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 season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
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
Reasoning: Like Jaylen Samuels, third-year wide receiver James Washington was placed on the reserve/Covid-19 list on Sunday. While his roster spot and his job should not be in jeopardy, it will potentially rob him of valuable practice and bonding time—and of course, if he has tested positive for the coronavirus, he could potentially miss extended him and face significant health issues.
Aside from the obvious potential health risks that come with having Covid-19—no, he is not a high risk, but no demographic is immune from serious complications—the biggest thing that I think about when it comes to James Washington right now is the time lost working on building a rapport with Ben Roethlisberger.
This this point of his career, Washington has seen almost as many targets from Mason Rudolph as he has from Roethlisberger, and with more receptions. Roethlisberger has only thrown 45 passes in Washington’s direction over 18 games between 2018 and the start of the 2019 season for 323 yards and one touchdown.
He has caught 41 passes for 672 yards and three touchdowns from the combined forces of Rudolph and Devlin Hodges during the 2019 season, with much better numbers all around. In fact, the connection rate between Washington and Roethlisberger was incredibly low, though granted it skewed highly toward his rookie season.
But the reality is, while he progressed last season, he still needs to be on the same page with Roethlisberger. He did throw with the quarterback some this offseason, but this is the most controlled and significant stage of that development.
The good news is that there are no significant practices for another week or so. If he is not positive, he could have a relatively short stay on the reserve list before returning. But he is still missing out on some throwing time even now.