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A week after benching, James Washington ready for expected return to Steelers lineup | TribLIVE.com
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A week after benching, James Washington ready for expected return to Steelers lineup

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Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington (13) during warm-ups prior to an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

It was rarity in the life of James Washington: he watched his teammates play but was not in uniform Sunday.

For the rookie wide receiver, that figures to change for the Pittsburgh Steelers next week when they play at the Oakland Raiders. Washington, who was deactived for the second time this season during Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, missed only one game in four years as a standout at Oklahoma State.

“I was just making sure I was watching (Antonio Brown), watching JuJu (Smith-Schuster), taking stuff they did in the game that I could put to good use myself,” Washington said.

“It is what its,” he said of being a healthy scratch, “you just have to be available and ready to fill a position when it’s needed.”

That need seems likely to return this week after the player who took Washington’s place on the 46-man gameday roster – Justin Hunter – suffered a shoulder injury in the first half of the loss to the Chargers. Also, slot receiver Ryan Switzer is in concussion protocol as the result of a hit during the game.

In other words, whether the Steelers’ coaches are satisfied with Washington or not, whether they believe the second-round pick needs more seasoning after some high-profile drops and non-catches this season, that might not matter. Quite frankly, the Steelers might be running out of other options.

Washington has caught eight of the 25 passes he’s been targeted with for 77 yards and one touchdown.

This is the same player, though, that had 226 receptions and 40 touchdowns over four college seasons. He also had a memorable preseason coming-out party at Lambeau Field in August: 114 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Have his regular-season struggles affected Washington’s confidence? Washington was asked if he’s still sure he can make plays in the NFL?

“Yeah,” he said Monday. “No doubt.”

Hey, Steelers Nation, get the latest news about the Pittsburgh Steelers here .

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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