JuJu Smith-Schuster (shoulder) is out for the year, causing some shuffling with Pittsburgh wide receivers. James Washington will get the opportunity to show what he can do with a larger role.

Washington has been a disappointment for most of his three-plus years in the pros. The Steelers at one point selected wide receivers with second- and third-round picks four years in a row, and he’s been the least impressive of those guys – clearly not as good as Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson or Chase Claypool. It would be a surprise if he were able to outproduce either Johnson or Claypool.

But the Steelers pass it around some (they’re averaging 257 passing yards per game) and Washington is now a starter. He’s also in a contract year, available to the highest bidder next spring. Washington in the summer advocating for a trade, figuring he wouldn’t get to play enough behind those other three.

Expectations here, I think, should be modest. In general, I don’t Washington as worthy of a roster spot in typical fantasy leagues. I don’t know that he’s good enough, and the Steelers are hamstrung by offensive line and quarterbacking issues.

And Washington has had ample opportunities to play in the past. He’s been on the field for over two thirds of their plays 20 times in his career, with modest results. In his last 16 such games (and old season’s worth of games) he’s 49 passes for 769 yards and 4 TDs.

In general, Washington has posted relevant numbers in four of those 20 games he’s started (and I’ve got those games in bold in the chart below).

Washington missed last week’s game with a groin injury that apparently occurred at practice (the injury wasn’t mentioned on Wednesday and he was a limited participant on Thursday before sitting out entirely on Friday).

2018K.C.L 37-42511414.01
2018Balt.L 14-2642105.00
2018at Balt.W 23-1652178.50
2018Car.W 52-21000--0
2018N.E.W 17-10436521.70
2018Cin.W 16-13336421.30
2019at S.F.L 20-2452147.00
2019Cin.W 27-3100--0
2019at Clev.L 7-21534916.30
2019at Cin.W 16-10739832.71
2019Clev.W 20-134411127.81
2019at Ariz.W 23-1744338.30
2019Buff.L 10-171158316.60
2019at NYJL 10-1685418.20
2019at Balt.L 10-28300--0
2020Phil.W 38-2943258.30
2020Clev.W 38-7746817.01
2020at Buff.L 15-2663299.71
2021Cin.L 10-2453206.70
2021at G.B.L 17-27546917.30

—Ian Allan