Steelers could find wide receiver help from former second-round pick

Pittsburgh could look to a former second-round pick for help at the wide receiver position at minimal cost to the team.
Washington Football Team v Pittsburgh Steelers
Washington Football Team v Pittsburgh Steelers / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Steelers may not be done adding to their wide receiver room. We learned that general manager Omar Khan had reached out to the 49ers during the 2024 NFL Draft to gauge the asking price to acquire Deebo Samuel via trade, while Brandon Aiyuk has been a player frequently linked to Pittsburgh in trade rumors this year.

Though the Steelers selected Roman Wilson in the third round of the draft and signed a trio of low-level free agents at the position this year, more help is needed.

Unfortunately, it looks like the options are 'go big or go home.' If the Niners were willing to part with a player like Aiyuk, it would cost the Steelers high draft capital and would require them to turn around and pay him in the ballpark of $30 million per season in new annual money.

But if they don't go with a household name and break the bank, are there any other options? It turns out a hidden option has been lurking.

James Washington posted an Instagram video showing he is looking to make an NFL comeback after dealing with a Jones fracture the past two seasons. Washington was the Steelers' 2018 second-round pick who led Pittsburgh in receiving yards during the 2019 season -- the year Ben Roethlisberger missed all but two games with an elbow injury.

Steelers could add James Washington to their roster at minimal cost

Washington broke out in his second NFL season when he led the Steelers with 735 receiving yards and three touchdowns on an outstanding 9.2 yards per target. However, over the next two seasons of his rookie contract, he took a backseat to Diontae Johnson and a struggling JuJu Smith-Schuster.

When he became a free agent in 2022, Washington signed with the Dallas Cowboys and suited up for two games but failed to catch a pass on one target. A Jones fracture hampered the former Oklahoma State star, which led to his release from the Cowboys. Washington spent time with the Giants, Saints, and Colts over the past two seasons but did not appear in an NFL game in 2023.

Now Washington looks completely healthy for the first time since suffering the severe foot injury, and the Steelers could give him a second chance.

During the 2022 free-agency period, the Steelers could have retained Washington on a veteran minimum contract, but they were looking to go in another direction. Things are looking much different in Pittsburgh now, and Washington could be a receiver who works well with both Russell Wilson and offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

The 5-foot-11 wide receiver would be far from assured of securing a roster spot if he signed with Pittsburgh, but the competition is slim. Washington could compete with veterans Van Jefferson, Scotty Miller, and Quez Watkins for a chance to prove himself and carve out a role with the team.

At 28 years old and nearly two years removed from meaningful NFL football, James Washington is a long shot to land on a team's 53-man roster -- let alone be a consistent contributor for a team. However, adding a former second-round pick who once had notable success with the team would be a no-risk move.

The Pittsburgh Steelers could sign Washington on a one-year contract for the veteran minimum and see if he's good enough to beat the unspectacular wide receiver depth on the roster.