With Antonio Brown out west, JuJu Smith-Schuster is the unquestioned No. 1 receiver in Pittsburgh.
But the Steelers still must figure out that Ben Roethlisberger’s second option will be.
Donte Moncrief, Ryan Switzer, Eli Rogers and newcomer Diontae Johnson should all see attention from Big Ben, but based on Smith-Schuster, second-year recipient James Washington will likely be Pittsburgh’s breakout pass-catcher in 2019.
“But you speak about a young dude who is up and coming, it is likely to become James Washington,” Smith Schuster told ESPN. “A guy from Oklahoma State, arrived at the Steelers his rookie year, started off slow but figured it out and got down the ropes.
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“Last year summer workouts which we had, he’s been performing amazing, a fantastic job. I’m super excited to see how he does this year. He is our man that’s going to sneak up on everybody.”
Washington began six games in his rookie season, behind Brown, Smith-Schuster and Switzer, and caught 16 balls on 38 targets for 217 yards and a touchdown. His 42.1 grab percentage was the lowest on the group among skill players with at least 14 targets.
Washington should see an increase in playtime from 2019 from last year’s 526 snaps (47.1% ), and the receiver has been readying himself for a much larger workload. Washington told The Athletic during offseason workouts that he dropped 15 pounds to 210 in prep for the approaching campaign.
The receiver admitted he was”burned out” in his rookie year during which he watched his snap count flutter and his quarterback criticize him on radio. That has encouraged Washington to prepare for the upcoming training camp of Pittsburgh.
“I am just trying to come in more positive,” Washington told The Atheltic’s Mark Kaboly in May. “It was not that I played without confidence this past year, but I wanted to come in with that sense of urgency that I felt like I lacked just a little last year”
Count Smith-Schuster among the teammates who have noticed.