New Cowboys WR James Washington explains what went wrong with the Steelers, details his plans in Dallas

James Washington went to Pittsburgh in 2018 after an incredibly successful college career at Oklahoma State. Washington showed glimpses of that potential with the Steelers, but it never fully materialized during his four years with the team.

Washington, a Texas native who currently owns a ranch 3.5 hours from Dallas, signed a one-year contract with the Cowboys earlier this month. The former Biletnikoff Award winner is looking forward to more opportunities to show off his talents, which was widely hinted at during his time in Pittsburgh.

“I feel like with everything that’s happened in Pittsburgh, I haven’t really been able to show myself fully,” Washington said in an interview with USA Today. “We had a packed room at the receiver. But nothing against anybody else, I feel like there’s a lot of meat left on the bone. I haven’t really been able to develop fully and make any progress as I wanted.

“I’m going to take full advantage of this opportunity in Dallas. Do what I can so they get 110% from me and I can reach my full potential.”


Drafted to help fill Martavis Bryant’s spot on offense, Washington spent the 2018 season playing alongside All-Pro Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, who won the Steelers’ team MVP award this season there. Washington also had to compete for reps with former Cowboys wide receiver Ryan Switzer, who developed a quick relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Washington, whose impressive training camp raised outside expectations, finished his rookie season with just 16 receptions on 38 targets for 216 yards and a score.

Washington appeared to turn a corner in 2019. With Brown out of the lineup and with former college teammate Mason Rudolph starting half of Pittsburgh’s games, Washington set career highs with 44 receptions for 735 yards and three affected. In Week 12 of this season, his 79-yard touchdown catch proved to be the game-winning score in a road win over the Bengals that helped keep the Steelers’ playoff hopes alive.

While he caught five career touchdowns in 2020, Washington’s overall production has plummeted this season, as he has often played behind Smith-Schuster, 2019 third-round pick Diontae Johnson and 2020 second-round pick Chase Claypool. . Washington has played in less than 50% of the Steelers’ offensive snaps in his last seven games with the team as it became clear he wasn’t going to be a part of Pittsburgh’s plans beyond the 2021 season.

Washington showed his ability as a deep threat and big-play receiver in Pittsburgh. He averaged 14.3 yards per catch with the Steelers while making several impressive sparring catches against tight coverage. The 5-foot-11, 213-pound receiver does his best in the slot, where he can use his toughness, athleticism and speed to make underhand or overhand plays.

In Dallas, Washington hopes to be more of the player he was at Oklahoma State, where he caught 226 passes for 4,472 yards and 39 touchdowns in four seasons. Washington will join a Cowboys receiving corps that includes Michael Gallup (who recently signed a multi-year contract) and CeeDee Lamb. Dallas recently traded former Pro Bowler Amari Cooper to the Browns in exchange for a fifth-round pick and a sixth-round pick trade.

Washington will partner Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who last season completed nearly 68.8% of his passes for 4,449 yards with 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Led by passing Prescott and a top-10 scoring defense, the Cowboys won the NFC East Division title for the first time since 2018. Washington said he hoped to add his skills to an offense that “is like a highlight every Sunday”.

“I want to develop my game to be who I was in college, because I feel like who I was in college is who I’m meant to be,” Washington said. “I want to be that threat on the pitch, that physical guy, get involved in the running game. I want to do it all.”