4 reasons swapping Steven Nelson for JuJu Smith-Schuster was a bad move for Steelers

Steven Nelson #22 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Steven Nelson #22 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington (13). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The drop from JuJu Smith-Schuster to James Washington is not that great

Just when he thought he was finally going to get the opportunity to prove himself, the Steelers pull the rug out from under James Washington. The former second-round pick is certainly the quietest receiver of the group, but that doesn’t mean that he is significantly worse than the others. Washington was quite impressive when called upon last season and even came up with a few miraculous catches to help the Steelers close out some games.

Even after showing that he was capable of leading the team in receiving in 2019, Washinton went back to a reserve role last season and didn’t get a lot of opportunities in 2020. Instead of rolling with him as the team’s number three receiver in 2021, Pittsburgh elected to bring back JuJu at the expense of letting Steven Nelson go.

The Steelers normally operate under the ‘next man up’ mentality, but apparently, that didn’t apply in this case. Despite the impressive stretches we have seen from Washington, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson, clearly, this wasn’t enough to make them feel comfortable with what they had. In addition, Pittsburgh always could have added a fourth receiver through the draft to help bolster this group instead of kicking a quality cornerback to the curb.