The Pittsburgh Steelers offense took a hit on Sunday when the team announced that it has placed wide receiver James Washington and running back Jaylen Samuels on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
Washington, a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, blossomed during the second half of the 2019 season, and still hopes to serve as nothing less than the team’s No. 3 receiver this year. He contributed 44 receptions for 735 yards and three touchdowns last season, but he was one of Pro Football Focus’ highest-rated receivers in the NFL during the latter part of last year. Washington has an outside chance at earning the right to be one of the team’s top two wide receivers, though he faces stiff competition in the form of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson, the latter of whom has shown the potential to develop into a No. 1 receiver.
Samuels, a fifth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, is expected to compete against Benny Snell Jr., Kerrith Whyte and rookie Anthony McFarland Jr. for the right to serve as the primary backup to RB1 James Conner. Samuels played in 14 games and made four starts last year, amassing 66 carries for 175 yards and one touchdown, while adding 47 receptions for 305 yards and another touchdown.
Steelers Now Have 4 Players on the COVID-19 List
With the addition of Washington and Samuels, the Steelers now have a total of four players on the COVID-19 list—two from the offense and two from the defense.
The defenders are: second-year cornerback Justin Layne, who was added to the COVID-19 list this past Wednesday, and DB Arrion Springs, who went on the list this past Monday.
Layne was drafted by the Steelers in the third round of last year’s draft with the 66th overall selection. He played in ten games as rookie, mostly on special teams, but made more and more of an impression on head coach Mike Tomlin as the season went on.
In fact, during a Steelers Nation Huddle with fans in mid-May, Tomlin offered unsolicited praise of Layne and highlighted the improvement he showed in practice during the course of last year. More notably, still, Tomlin’s praise came in the same breath as the praise afforded to 2019 first-round draft pick Devin Bush, who many NFL observers consider to be a potential breakout player in 2020, along with the aforementioned wide receiver Diontae Johnson.
No Pittsburgh Steelers Players Have Opted-Out
Meanwhile, the Steelers are one of just nine NFL teams that have not yet had a player opt out of the 2020 season, this as compared to the league-leading New England Patriots, who have had eight players opt out, including key performers like linebacker Dont’a Hightower and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon.
Some NFL observers wondered whether cancer survivor James Conner might choose to opt out, but he has already confirmed that he plans to play in 2020.
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