JuJu: James Washington will 'sneak up on everybody'

With Antonio Brown out west, JuJu Smith-Schuster is the unquestioned No. 1 receiver in Pittsburgh. But the Steelers still need to figure out who Ben Roethlisberger's second option will be.

Donte Moncrief, Ryan Switzer, Eli Rogers and rookie Diontae Johnson should all see attention from Big Ben, but according to Smith-Schuster, second-year receiver James Washington will be Pittsburgh's breakout pass-catcher in 2019.

"But you talk about a young dude who's up and coming, it's going to be James Washington," Smith Schuster told ESPN. "A guy from Oklahoma State, came to the Steelers his rookie year, started off slow but figured it out and got the ropes down.

"This past summer workouts that we had, he's been doing amazing, a great job. I'm super excited to see how he does this year. He's our guy that's going to sneak up on everybody."

Washington started six games in his rookie year, behind Brown, Smith-Schuster and Switzer, and caught 16 balls on 38 targets for 217 yards and a touchdown. His 42.1 catch percentage was the lowest on the team among skill players with at least 14 targets.

Washington should see an increase in playtime in 2019 from last year's 526 snaps (47.1 percent), and the receiver is readying himself for an larger workload. Washington told The Athletic during offseason workouts that he dropped 15 pounds to 210 in preparation for the upcoming campaign.

The receiver admitted that he was "burned out" in his rookie year during which he saw his snap count flutter and his quarterback criticize him on local radio. All that has encouraged Washington to prepare differently for Pittsburgh's upcoming training camp.

"I am just trying to come in more confident," Washington told The Atheltic's Mark Kaboly in May. "It wasn't that I played without confidence last year, but I wanted to come in with that sense of urgency that I felt like I lacked a little last year."

Count Smith-Schuster among the teammates who have already noticed.