If James Washington really does want out of Pittsburgh, he’s putting on a good show.
The Steelers backup wide receiver reportedly requested a trade earlier this month because of his limited role on the team, something head coach Mike Tomlin quickly and flatly denied. Asked about the report Wednesday, Washington expressed not even a hint of a wish to play with another team, although he did acknowledge his role has been discussed with Steeler powers that be.
“It’s been talked about,” Washington said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “But I’m just trying to do what I can, trying to show people I can be available and make the plays they want me to make.”
Of course, Tomlin’s denial that Washington asked for a trade, and Washington declining to confirm it, doesn’t necessarily mean that Washington’s representation didn’t make such an overture. But Washington is a good teammate by all accounts, and he’d clearly rather separate himself from the report than give it ongoing life.
“But as far as me being happy in Pittsburgh, I love it here,” Washington said. “Who wouldn’t be happy playing football as their job? I come to work every day with a smile on my face. I’m eager to be here with my guys — joking around, laughing, playing a sport I love.”
Since being drafted as a second-round pick in 2018 out of Oklahoma State, Washington has yet to establish himself as a full-time starter. Since selecting Washington, the Steelers have invested two more second-day selections at receiver in Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool to join JuJu Smith-Schuster, both of whom have outplayed him. His production took a big jump from his rookie year to his second, with career highs in catches (44) and yardage (735). But his game action fell back again last year with the emergence of Claypool, and the Post-Gazette currently projects him as Ben Roethlisberger’s No. 4 option at the position — in other words, on the sideline anytime there’s both a tight end and a running back in the game.
He’s now entering the final season of his four-year rookie contract.
If he wants good options to go elsewhere in 2022, he just needs to put forth his best season to date in ’21.
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