Twice in the last month, we’ve seen feel-good stories about Donte Moncrief. A writer for The Athletic speculates that the veteran will be the 2nd-best wide receiver in Pittsburgh. Now it’s James Washington’s turn for some positive pub.

Selected early in the third round last year, Washington had an underwhelming rookie season. He caught 5 passes for 135 yards and 2 TDs in a preseason game at Green Bay (all of that production in the second half) but hardly played in the regular season. In the first 10 weeks, he was on the field for at least 75 percent of their plays four times, and he finished under 20 receiving yards in all of those games.

Washington at least came on some late in the year, with 32- and 47-yard catches in Weeks 15 and 17.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, for whatever it’s worth, says Washington looks like a new guy this year, playing with a lot more confidence. "This past summer workouts that we had, he's been doing amazing, a great job,” Smith-Schuster says. “I'm super excited to see how he does this year. He's our guy that's going to sneak up on everybody."

Washington concedes that he wasn’t as successful as he expected in his first year, but he’s been working at it.

“It wasn’t what I expected,” Washington says on the team’s website.. “It was a lot, just because of the ups and downs. One week you’re playing good and the next week you’re not. One week you’re inactive, then it’s like you question yourself and you think am I really good enough. It just kind of gives you that challenge to answer the call. Without challenges you wouldn’t have the opportunity to get better, or know what your weakness are or what your strengths are. My teammates really helped. When you’re down like that, this team does a good job of pulling you up and telling you what you’re capable of. I learned a lot and grew a lot over the season, just building my skills and looking forward to next season.”

If Washington breaks out in his second year, he won’t be the first Pittsburgh receiver to pull that stunt. In this century, four other Steelers wide receivers have had their first season with top-25 numbers (PPR scoring) in their second year.

Of Pittsburgh’s 13 most notable wide receivers in this century, they almost doubled their stats in their second year. As a group, those 13 caught 298 passes for 4,490 yards and 31 TDs as rookies; they caught 296 more passes for 4,400 more yards and 22 more touchdowns in their second year.

2000Plaxico Burress22273049.386
2002Antwaan Randle El474893133.655
2006Santonio Holmes498243150.738
2006Willie Reid000.0---
2008Limas Sweed664012.4146
2009Mike Wallace397566155.436
2010Emmanuel Sanders28376277.687
2010Antonio Brown16167138.7119
2013Markus Wheaton664012.4156
2014Martavis Bryant265498130.161
2015Sammie Coates11102.1190
2015Eli Rogers000.0---
2017JuJu Smith-Schuster589178197.720
2018James Washington16217143.7125
2001Plaxico Burress661,0086202.825
2003Antwaan Randle El37364399.272
2007Willie Reid45409.4157
2007Santonio Holmes529428197.924
2009Limas Sweed1501.5170
2010Mike Wallace601,25710249.69
2011Emmanuel Sanders22288263.699
2011Antonio Brown691,1083201.923
2014Markus Wheaton536442131.359
2015Martavis Bryant507657172.239
2016Sammie Coates21435277.992
2016Eli Rogers485943126.064
2018JuJu Smith-Schuster1111,4267298.98

Four other Pittsburgh receivers (all selected with picks in the sixth and seventh round) didn’t make much of a factor in their of their first two seasons.

2002Lee Mays000.0167
2003Lee Mays21703.7161
2007Dallas Baker000.0---
2008Dallas Baker1601.6173
2013Justin Brown000.0---
2014Justin Brown1294021.4138
2016Demarcus Ayers653116.1151
2017Demarcus Ayers000.0---

If I’m walking into a draft today, I’m interested in throwing a late-round pick at a Pittsburgh wide receiver, and I’m not sure whether I’d go with Washington or Moncrief. (It might make sense to select them both, giving you a decent chance of landing a viable depth wide receiver.)

—Ian Allan