Does James Washington want out of Pittsburgh? It depends on who you ask, it seems. In the aftermath of the Steelers' preseason opener on Thursday night, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that Washington requested a trade from the Steelers. However, the club has since denied that the request was actually put in.
"He has not," Tomlin said Saturday of Washington's reported trade request, via Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Those unnamed sources, we don't react to or respond to. James has been great here, working, and having a good camp."
Washington himself was not made available to reporters, so the jury is still out as to what exactly is developing with the pass-catcher. The reason behind Washington's reported request, per Schefter, was due to a lack of playing time. Last season, he played in 44% of the offensive snaps. In limited action during the Hall of Fame Game, the 25-year-old recorded zero catches on two targets.
Washington first arrived in Pittsburgh in 2018 when the club took him with the No. 60 overall pick in the second round of the NFL Draft out of Oklahoma State. He played sparingly over the course of his rookie season, catching just 16 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown over 14 games (six starts). He popped in Year 2 and led the Steelers in receiving (735 yards) and was third on the team in receptions (44). However, 2020 saw Washington take a step back in his production as his targets dropped by almost 30 and finished with just 392 yards, albeit with a career-high five receiving touchdowns.
The Steelers are quite deep at the position and Washington is likely on the outside looking in on three wide receiver sets in this offense behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson. With the prospect of being the fourth man on the totem pole in front of him, it wouldn't be too surprising to see Washington look elsewhere for a better opportunity. That said, offensive coordinator Matt Canada noted that Washington has a "good role" in their offense.
"James Washington's awesome," Canada said. "He comes to work every day. He's a good guy to be around. Hasn't said a word to me. Just plays hard every day and practices hard every day. I'm a huge fan of James. I really am."
If Washington did, in fact, place a trade request, the ball is now in the Steelers' court to see if they'll grant his wish.