Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: WR James Washington
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: With JuJu Smith-Schuster out for the rest of the season, wide receiver James Washington will now play a critical role in the Steelers’ offense.
For the past season and change, James Washington has spent a lot of time serving as the odd man out, settling in as the number four receiver behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool. Sure, he’s gotten more opportunities when one of them has not been available, but it’s been a while since he’s had the luxury of reliable playing time and a steady role.
At least once he gets back from his groin injury—he missed Sunday’s game and was limited in practice yesterday—he’ll finally have that again, and as he plays out the bulk of his contract year, as well. It is a fortuitous turn of events that was unfortunately provided by the season-ending injury suffered by Smith-Schuster.
The fifth-year veteran took a direct hit to his right shoulder on Sunday and immediately left the game, ultimately going to the hospital. He had surgery yesterday, and confirmed himself that he will be out for the rest of the season.
Washington is now the next many up at wide receiver, though the tight end and running back positions will also likely see some benefits as a result of Smith-Schuster’s absence. Coming into this week, Washington has nine catches on the season through four games, for 99 yards. He caught four passes for 69 yards, including a 30-yard reception, his last time out.
He lost out on a lot of playing time last year when they drafted Claypool, but he still managed to have an impact, catching 30 passes for 392 yards and a career-high five touchdowns. He is still capable of delivering the big play, including out of a catch-and-run situation, but his lack of excellence in any one area has seemingly kept him on the shelf and from making a larger splash.