Is Steelers James Washington the most reliable receiver in Pittsburgh?
Steelers wide receivers have struggled all sesaon long, but James Washington is stepping up to the challenge. Is he now the most reliable receiver in Pittsburgh?
Steelers wide receiver James Washington had a rough rookie sesaon in 2018, to say the least. After a promising preseason during his first year in the league, the second-round draft choice failed to make a difference when it mattered. According to Pro Football Focus, he finished the 2018 season tied for the lowest overall grade (49.2) among all qualifying wide receivers.
After catching just 42.1 percent of his targets as a rookie, the young wide receiver has turned a new leaf. In fact, Washington has been the most consistent offensive weapon on the team over the past four weeks.
With JuJu Smith-Schuster struggling and Diontae Johnson’s production plateauing as of late, is James Washington now the most reliable wide receiver in Pittsburgh?
I’ll admit that this isn’t something I thought I would be saying at this point, but there is evidence to back up this claim. JuJu has only been a fraction of himself from 2018. He has struggled with drops this season, and while he will occasionally bust out a big play, he struggles to create separation in and out of his breaks.
Smith-Schuster hasn’t had a game of more than 44 receiving yards since week 8, and has managed just 184 yards on 23 targets (8.0 yards per target) over his last four games played. Obviously, JuJu has seen more attention than Washington, and he has been shadowed by elite cornerbacks like Stephon Gilmore and Jalen Ramsey this season. Still, JuJu has just one 100-yard performance in 10 contests despite leading the team in targets.
Rookie Diontae Johnson shows a ton of promise, and is the best receiver on the team at creating separation. However, most of his best performances came in the first half of the season. Johnson has averaged just 28.2 receiving yards per game over the past four weeks and his yards per target are lower over that span than they have been all sesaon.
This leads us to James Washington. While he hasn’t been perfect in the early going, the Oklahoma State product has really come on strong in recent weeks. Over is past four games, Washington has caught 16 of 23 targets for 306 yards (19.1 yards per catch) and 2 touchdowns. He is also the Steelers best-rated wide receiver this season, according to PFF. Washington has been a security blanket despite spotty quarterback play, and has brought a different level of energy and physicality to this wide receiver room.
The Steelers have been waiting for a player to step up and help fill the void left by Antonio Brown. While Washington is a far cry from an All-Pro receiver, he has been the most consistent weapon on the team for Pittsburgh.
It’s entirely possible that the Steelers could search for help at receiver in the NFL Draft yet again next season, but it is encouraging to know that they have a trio of young guys who appear to have promising futures ahead of them. It will be interesting to see who quarterback Devlin Hodges favors moving forward. As of now, Washington is the most reliable receiver in Pittsburgh.