Young Wide Receiver Duo: The College Years
The Steelers drafted Johnson with the No. 66 overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. The wide receiver played college football at Toledo.
Although he sat out one season at Toledo due to injury, Johnson recorded 135 receptions for 2,235 yards and 23 touchdowns in his remaining three seasons.
Johnson attributes his adversity in college to his drive for success in the NFL.
“My sophomore year was my roughest point of my college career,” Johnson said. “I had to sit out that year, retake the SATs, and that’s when I had surgery on my foot as well. Couldn’t do nothing with the team. I was just lonely during that time. I just felt like I wasn’t apart of the team. There was times I wanted to go home and just give up.”
Washington joined the Steelers in 2018, after being drafted in the second round. He spent his college years at Oklahoma State University, alongside current teammate Mason Rudolph.
There, Washington totaled 226 receptions for 4,472 yards and 39 touchdowns throughout four seasons.
First Years in the NFL
Coming into their rookie seasons with the Steelers, both Johnson and Washington were fortunate to learn from wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Smith-Schuster has become a natural leader for the other receivers in Pittsburgh.
Look how happy and hyped up JuJu Smith-Schuster was for James Washington's after his big touchdown. Between this and his sideline discussion with Diontae Johnson from Week 4, Smith-Schuster has really become a great leader in the WR room. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/wYRHW4753X
— Daniel Valente (@StatsGuyDaniel) December 4, 2019
When Smith-Schuster’s 2019 season became more about injuries than performance, Johnson and Washington were next on the list to take his place.
The rookie and second-year receivers were able to conjure up some playmaking skills, but their productivity was limited due to issues at the quarterback position.
Johnson managed to finish his rookie season with 59 receptions, the most for any rookie wide receiver in the league.
He isn’t widely known around the NFL, despite his ability to make big plays. Johnson also hasn’t really been in the conversation in terms of fantasy leagues. That is supposed to change in 2020.
Expectations for the 2020 Season
The receiver duo is slated to have a strong season in 2020. Several experts are listing Johnson as the Steelers’ No. 2 receiver, behind Smith-Schuster. Washington is listed at No. 3.
The pair has become close on and off the field during the offseason. They work together every day at training camp to improve their game and help each other along the way.
“He’s a quick, agile guy, and you better make sure you tackle him, because if not he’s running down the sideline on you,” said Washington of Johnson. “He’s hungry, all the time, he’s always wanting to be better than the day before”.
After playing two seasons that Washington knows did not live up to the Steelers’ expectations of him, it’s time to prove himself.
“I never wanna add extra pressure to myself,” said Washington in a virtual press conference with the media. “You know, all I can do is go out and try to get better each and every day with the offense. The rest will take care of itself.”
Johnson is on the same page.
“I want to be one of the top receivers in the NFL,” said Johnson during an interview.
Featured Image Courtesy of Heavy.com
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