Throughout the past few months, the Steelers offensive players have received a good amount of media attention. There's been talk about JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner, and whether or not they will bounce back this year. People have discussed Diontae Johnson and whether he is primed for a breakout season. And, of course, everyone has shared their views on Ben Roethlisberger and how they expect him to play coming off of his injury. However, two names that have barely shown up are James Washington and Jaylen Samuels. Last offseason, each of these players was expected to be an important contributor to the Steelers offense, but now, they seem to be completely overshadowed by other names.
Samuels and Washington are coming off vastly different 2019 seasons. Despite suiting up in 14 games, Samuels totaled just 67 carries and averaged only 2.7 yards per attempt. His role was more significant in the receiving game, where he caught 47 passes for 307 yards, good for fourth most on the team. He also added one rushing and one receiving touchdown. Washington, on the other hand, lead the team in receiving yards with 735. In addition, he caught three touchdowns including the 79-yard catch and run which jump-started the Steelers Week 12 victory over the Bengals. Though neither of their stats stand out as particularly exciting, they both played their roles and performed well given the less-than-ideal quarterback situation.
Looking at Washington specifically, it is surprising his 2019 effort has received so little commendment from the media. He had a very underwhelming rookie season in which he caught just 16 passes for 217 yards and one touchdown. Despite playing in a crowded wide receiver room with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson, he rebounded nicely and made great strides in 2019. He found his role in the offense as a true deep threat receiver, and performed very well in it. Unfortunately, now that Chase Claypool and Eric Ebron have been added to the mix, Washington has faded into the background. In fact, despite his solid 2019 campaign, most fantasy football websites believe he may not even be worth a pick. CBS Sports had this to say about the third-year wideout:
James Washington probably won’t help you win a Fantasy crown in 2020. When he was pressed into a big role for the Steelers in 2019, he posted five games with 10-plus PPR points from Week 9 on from quarterbacks not named Ben Roethlisberger. But that was without JuJu Smith-Schuster on the field and without Eric Ebron and rookie Chase Claypool on the team. Washington could see his playing time evaporate quickly, especially if second-year receiver Diontae Johnson steps up. There’s just not enough potential to warrant using a pick on Washington, though he is worth paying attention to during the early portion of the season.
Washington is going into 2020 with a fairly low bar set for him, and he will surely be doing everything he can to surprise the world come September. Samuels is also entering this season without high expectations. He broke out in Week 15 of 2018 when he ran for 142 yards on 19 carries in a huge victory over the Patriots. But, when the Steelers selected Benny Snell Jr. in the 2019 draft, Samuels took on much more of a receiving role and played primarily as a third-down running back. When James Conner missed time in 2018, Samuels took over, but in 2019, it was Snell who received the majority of the carries even though Samuels usually started the game. As a result, it is somewhat more understandable that Samuels hasn't received as much media attention as the other running backs on the Steelers roster. Still, considering that he ranked fourth in receptions on the team last year, he should be seen as an important contributor on the offensive side of the ball. It is unclear how the Steelers plan to use rookie Anthony McFarland Jr., but no matter how big his role is, more running backs on the roster will likely mean less playing time for Samuels. Nevertheless, his performance last season has not received nearly the amount of praise it deserves; he is definitely one of the more underappreciated players on the roster.
Who do you think is more underrated, James Washington or Jaylen Samuels? And are there any other players whom you think are not getting the attention they deserve? Let us know in the comments below.