• Asher Jacobs

Most Underrated Player: Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have a long history of success and development of their second wide receiver. Names like Antonio Brown, Santonio Holmes, Emmanuel Sanders, and Juju Smith-Schuster were all #2 wideouts, who thrived with Big Ben, and developed into stars in the league. James Washington was the second wide receiver last season, but didn't get the chance to flourish, as Big Ben missed 14 games. Washington still had a productive season, totaling 44 receptions for 735 yards, and 3 touchdown grabs. I expect James to take that leap this year, and if he doesn't necessarily flourish into a star in the league, he should at least develop into a quality, established starter for his team.

The Steelers obviously believe in Washington, as they drafted him in the second round back in 2018. Juju Smith-Schuster is the most recent Steelers wideout to be drafted in the second round, and grow into a household name as the steelers second option. Washington ranked 17th in deep targets throughout the league last season. This is something that we like to see in our home run hitter-type receiver prospects. Although the touchdown production wasn't quite there, many contribute that to the fact that the majority of these targets were thrown by either Duck Hodges, or Mason Rudolph.

Between James Washington and Diontae Johnson, whoever can develop a better rapport with Ben Roethlisberger, is going to succeed. I have my money on Washington, as he has more experience in the league, has played with Ben before, and Big Ben has often developed strong connections with good intermediate to deep route runners. Washington plays an efficient game, as he was top 10 in the league last season in yards per reception. Washington combines crisp deep routes, with an excellent tracking abilities, and a serious knack for going up and high pointing the football. Big Ben is widely regarded as one of the best deep ball throwers in the league, so these two have games that mirror each other, and the connection should be able to thrive as long as Washington gets more looks than Diontae Johnson.

If we look closely at Washington's 44/735/3 stat line in 2019, we see that many other receivers have posted a similar stat line in years past the season before they became really stepped onto the scene. In 2017, Robert Woods posted a 56/781/5 stat line, before going for no less than 85 catches and 1,100 yards since. D.J. Moore posted a 55/788/2 stat line in his 2018 season, before he stepped it up with an 87 catch, 1,175 yard season. And finally, in Allen Robinson's first season with the Bears in 2018, after multiple disappointing seasons with the Jaguars, he recorded a 55 catch, 754 yard, 4 touchdown season. He then also stepped it up with a 98 catch, 1,147 yard and 7 touchdown season in 2019, and isn't done yet. Many players have had stat lines incredibly similar to James Washington's 2019 season the year before they broke out, and he did it with Devlin "Duck" Hodges as his quarterback.

Don't sleep on James Washington this year, as history tells us, as long as he is considered a priority over Diontae Johnson within the Steelers organization, and Big Ben stays healthy, Washington WILL have a breakout season. Washington is currently going undrafted in ESPN mock drafts, with an ADP of 170. Granted it's only June, but keep him on your radar, as he is more than worth a roster spot if the couple things that I mentioned go right in Pittsburgh.