If there was one slam-dunk free agency prediction, it was James Washington wasn’t returning to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Writing that had been on the wall since the summer, 2021 was a quiet year for him, spending most of his gamedays on the bench. Now a Dallas Cowboy, it’s no surprise to hear him believe the Steelers didn’t use him correctly last season.
Washington had his first press conference with the Dallas media and was asked about his 2021 campaign with Pittsburgh. Here’s what he said via this tweet from USA Today’s Jori Epstein.
Washington entered training camp running as a clear backup with the two’s behind Chase Claypool. It reportedly led him to asking for a trade, which the Steelers denied, and he become a little-used insurance policy in 2021. Even with Claypool’s sophomore struggles, Washington had trouble seeing the field. In only five of the 15 games he played in did he log more than 50% of the offense’s snaps, the same number of games he was held to playing less than one-third of the time.
His numbers decreased across the board, finishing the year with 24 receptions for 285 yards and two touchdowns while averaging a career-low 11.9 yards per reception. In today’s interview, he expanded on the meat the Steelers left on the bone.
Truthfully, that is how the Steelers used him. He was their Z receiver, a vertical threat. The problem is they simply just didn’t use him often, opting to keep plugging away with Claypool, who on paper, was the more explosive and dynamic athlete, not to mention the more recent draft pick.
Washington will get the chance to rebuild his value this year in Dallas. He gets to be close to his ranch and be the deep target for Dak Prescott. His chance for playing time has opened up following Amari Cooper’s trade and Cedrick Wilson’s departure for Miami.
A second-round pick in 2017, Washington finishes his Steelers career with 114 grabs for 1,629 yards and 11 touchdowns. Technically speaking, his first and last Steelers receptions were touchdowns, though the latter occurred in the team’s playoff loss to Kansas City.