SteelerNation.com

The Steelers’ Secret Weapon in 2019

By Logan Leslie
SteelerNation.com

Every year, there seems to be a break out player who produces at a rate no one expects. In 2017, we had JuJu Smith-Schuster explode onto the scene, then last year we saw James Conner grab the spotlight in Le’Veon Bell’s absence. So who will be this year’s breakout player?

If history has taught us one thing, it’s that the Pittsburgh Steelers know how to draft wide receivers. Last year, we saw rookie receiver James Washington struggle very frequently. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger publicly criticized Washington following a big drop in last season’s Week 12 loss to the Denver Broncos. Roethlisberger said on his weekly radio show that Washington has to make the catch and went on to say he will not be on the field if he cannot make these big time catches. Washington took the criticism very well and has used it as motivation. He has dropped 15 pounds this off-season and hopes this keeps him from burning out at the tail end of the season.

In 2018, Washington caught 16 passes (38 targets) for 217 yards and 1 touchdown with a 42.1% catch rate. This is a large difference from his senior season at Oklahoma State where he caught 74 passes for 1,549 yards and 13 touchdowns. One of Washington’s strengths seen by scouts prior to last year’s NFL Draft was his knack for success in contested catches which he did not do well in 2018. This could mean 2018 was a fluke.

With Antonio Brown now out in Oakland, Washington has the same opportunity that given to James Conner last season. He seems motivated to seize the moment and has the talent to do so. Look for him to be the next great player on the Steelers’ offense.

Let us know your thoughts on James Washington in the comment section below!

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