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Steelers' James Washington Addresses Trade Rumors: 'That's a Private Conversation'

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVAugust 19, 2021

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Pittsburgh Steelers receiver James Washington made his first public comments Wednesday following a report of a trade request earlier this month.

"That's a private conversation," he said, per Brooke Pryor of ESPN. "As far as me being happy in Pittsburgh, I love it here. Who wouldn't be happy playing football as their job? I come to work every day with a smile on my face. I'm eager to be here with my guys—joking around, laughing, playing a sport I love."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Washington approached the Steelers about a trade because of a lack of playing time last season and this preseason.

Head coach Mike Tomlin denied Washington request a trade.

"James has been great here, working and having a good camp," Tomlin said.

Washington finished last season with just 30 catches for 392 yards and five touchdowns, down from the 44 receptions, 735 yards and three scores he tallied in 2019.

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Despite appearing in 16 games with seven starts, Washington played just 44.2 percent of the snaps last season. That ranked fourth on the team at receiver behind JuJu Smith-Schuster (83.9), Diontae Johnson (66.6) and Chase Claypool (62.9), all of whom return in 2021.

Washington played 63.5 percent of snaps in 2019, which ranked second among receivers behind Johnson's 65.3. He made 10 starts and played 15 games.

The 25-year-old did not make a catch in his one preseason outing, though he was targeted twice in the Hall of Fame Game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Though Washington didn't deny requesting a trade, he said he's asked for a bigger role.

"I'm just trying to do what I can. I just want to show people I can be available and make the plays they want me to make," he said. "Just do what I need to do."

The 2018 second-round pick entered the NFL with plenty of hype after winning the Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver in college football in 2017. He caught 226 passes for 4,472 yards and 39 touchdowns during his four-year career at Oklahoma State, reaching 1,000 yards and double-digit scores in each of his last three years.

A trade could give Washington a fresh start and a chance to prove himself before he hits free agency next offseason.

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