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James Washington could give Steelers scary wide receiver depth

A six-pack of Steelers thoughts, some longer than others, to crack open at the tailgate for Saturday’s preseason game against the Titans at Heinz Field:

Receivers

It doesn’t look like Martavis Bryant will win the Gruden Grinder award anytime soon.

The Raiders’ coach traded a third-round pick to the Steelers for Bryant, and according to the San Francisco Chronicle he hasn’t been thrilled with Bryant so far in the preseason.

The Steelers, meanwhile, snapped up James Washington in the second round after unloading Bryant.

Washington has seven catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns so far in the preseason. While no receiver should be expected to have the kind of career that Antonio Brown has, it’s not too much to ask Washington to have a better rookie year than Brown did. Brown caught 16 passes in 2010 before breaking out with 69 catches in 2011.

If Washington has a more productive rookie year than Brown did, if JuJu Smith-Schuster builds on his seven-touchdown rookie season and Brown remains in his prime, the Steelers could have their best wide receiver trio in recent memory.

They did have Hines Ward, Mike Wallace and Brown on their roster in 2010 and 2011. But Brown wasn’t much of a factor in 2010 and Ward caught just 46 passes in 2011, which was his final season.

Brown, Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders were teammates in 2012, but Sanders had just 44 catches that year before breaking out with 67 in 2013, his contract year. By then, Wallace was gone.

Last year might be the closest the Steelers have come to having three receivers in the prime of their careers, with Brown catching 101 passes, Smith-Schuster catching 58 and Bryant catching 50.

It’s not hard to see Smith-Schuster being better than he was last season and Washington being better than Bryant.

If the Steelers do end up with that much receiving depth, it’s a good thing, because they shouldn’t expect a whole lot out of their tight end position anytime soon.

Jesse James‘ overturned touchdown against the Patriots last year, which ultimately might have cost the Steelers a trip to the Super Bowl, was emblematic of a long-term problem.

The Steelers miss Heath Miller.

Xavier Grimble has a thumb injury and the overhyped Vance McDonald has a foot injury. The Steelers traded a fifth-round draft pick to the 49ers to get McDonald last year. But he hasn’t solved this tight end problem. He’s never caught more than 30 passes in a season, but for some reason he’s talked about as a breakout candidate.

Yeah, McDonald caught a career-high 10 passes in the Steelers’ 45-42 playoff loss to Jacksonville, but half of those catches came in desperation mode in the final four minutes of the game. The lasting memory of McDonald from 2017 is him bobbling passes into the hands of defensive players for interceptions.

If this football thing doesn’t work out for him, maybe McDonald can be the world’s tallest volleyball setter.

Daniel McCullers

Giving up a draft pick for McDonald isn’t looking like a good move by the Steelers, but could it be that they actually knew what they were doing when they released James Harrison and kept Daniel McCullers last year?

McCullers, a 6-foot-7, 352-pound nose tackle, might finally have a breakout season in his fifth year. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, new defensive line coach Karl Dunbar has bigger plans for him than his predecessor, John Mitchell. Mike Tomlin has been impressed with McCullers so far during the preseason and so has Cameron Heyward, whose opinion might carry almost as much weight as Tomlin’s.

The Steelers took McCullers in the sixth round of the 2014 draft. They took Martavis Bryant in the fourth round of that same draft. Who’d have thought McCullers would have lasted longer in Pittsburgh than Bryant?

Tramon Williams

Tramon Williams started the scoring in the Steelers’ 51-34 preseason loss at Green Bay last week with a 25-yard pick-six on the first play from scrimmage. This is the same player who broke up a fourth-down pass to Mike Wallace to clinch the Packers’ victory in Super Bowl XLV eight years ago.

Just a little trivia.

A pointless note

From the trivia to the trivial, the Steelers’ 51 points allowed to the Packers was noted as a preseason franchise record. There are people who actually keep track of preseason records?

Quarterbacks

One of these guys is going to be the odd man out on cutdown day, probably Joshua Dobbs. But isn’t it nice that, barring injury, the Steelers will have both a reliable backup (Landry Jones) and a promising rookie (Mason Rudolph) behind Ben Roethlisberger? It makes it easy to forget that the Steelers needed Mike Vick to start three games in 2015.

Bulletin-board material

What was Jalen Ramsey thinking?

The Jaguars cornerback said in a GQ interview that Ben Roethilsberger is “decent at best.”

It’s not so much what Ramsey said about Roethlisberger, it’s that Ramsey is playing with the same matches that burned the Steelers last year.after they lit the Jaguars’ motivational flames with all their cocky tweets.

Shouldn’t Ramsey realize the value of keeping quiet?

If Ramsey wanted to rip Roethlisberger for something, he could have asked why he waited until age 36 before cutting carbs and sugar out of his diet.

Let’s just hope the leaner Roethlisberger, along with Maurkice Pouncey, Brown and any other starter, gets through Saturday healthy.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

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