James Washington Impressive at OTAs

Rookie WR Adjusting to NFL Speed

Josh Rowntree
June 07, 2018 - 3:16 pm
James Washington makes a catch in Steelers OTAs

Josh Rowntree

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Steelers rookie receiver James Washington is taking advantage of his opportunities. And older players are taking notice. 

A third-round pick, Washington has been the beneficiary of Antonio Brown electing to skip OTAs and Juju Smith-Schuster not participating in team drills as well.

"The more reps, the quicker I can learn this offense and the quicker I can be a part of this team and help them win,” he said following the team’s final OTA session Thursday.

On top of Brown and Smith-Schuster’s absences, Martavis Bryant was traded to Oakland and Eli Rogers remains unsigned following knee surgery. So Washington is working alongside the likes of Justin Hunter and Darius Heyward-Bey.

"I feel like I’ve grown a lot just because I’m out here everyday with the veterans and just kind of watching them, following in their footsteps and picking up the concepts,” he said.

Washington has caught the eye of the guy who, barring injury, will be throwing him passes this season in Ben Roethlisberger. 

“I was pretty impressed the first practice and still the same thing,” Roethlisberger said. "But, once again, there’s no pads on. I like the way he makes combat catches and he’s strong at the catch point. So that’s good for now."

It’s something that Washington thrived at in college. 

"At Oklahoma State, that was coached every day,” he said. "The combat catches, catching in traffic. Especially now, at this point, no catch is going to be wide open and clean. Everyone is good at this point."

Washington is hoping to develop a connection with Roethlisberger, but hasn’t had many opportunities with the 15th year quarterback skipping all but three OTA sessions.

"It’s been good,” Washington said of working with Roethlisberger. "He’s a good teacher. I run a route, he’ll tell me what I did good, what I need to improve on. He’s testing me, throwing balls everywhere and seeing my range of motion. He’s a good quarterback to work with.”

“He’s just trying to get the best out of me, with everything that we do,” Washington added. "He’s a guy that wants everybody’s best every time we step on the field and that’s what I want to give him.”

When pads do go on, Washington will get a larger chance to prove what he can do on the football field. He’ll also continue to transition from college tendencies to being a pro.

“Just adjusting to the speed of the game,” he said. "It’s so much faster than college. You have defensive lineman that get to the flats so fast. It’s just something that’s going to take time and I’m going to have to get used to.”

Washington is seemingly a lock to make the Steelers roster. With the success the team has with young receivers, including Smith-Schuster, Washington may have a shot at playing right away. But he isn’t resting on that.

"First day we got here, Coach Tomlin said that it doesn’t matter how you got here,” he added. "We’re going to take the guys that put us in the best position to win. Whether you’re an undrafted free agent or a first rounder, anyone can be on this field and help us win" 

Hear more from Washington below.