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Mike Tomlin: James Washington Is ‘In Really Good Shape for a Rookie’



One of the hardest things about breaking in as a rookie at the NFL level is adjusting to the speed of the game. We know that because it’s repeated around this time every single year to the point of cliché status. But for one rookie, that is apparently not the case.

Head coach Mike Tomlin recently spoke at Steelers Nation Unite, a Pittsburgh fan event. The topics were wide-ranging, but included some praise for OSU’s latest Biletnikoff winner.

“James is doing really well, and I think the first thing that comes with him doing really well is that he’s in really good shape for a rookie,” Tomlin said. “His level of conditioning can be compared to that of a veteran. And that really allows them to really help themselves because he’s able to absorb the number of reps that’s gonna allow him to improve, to learn what to do, to show that he knows what he’s doing.

“He’s absorbing a lot of reps during our work right now, and he’s getting those reps because he’s in good shape. If he wasn’t in as good as condition, he wouldn’t be able to get those things. There’s consequences of not being in condition.”

The consequences would include limited reps on Sundays. Tomlin had similar praise at this point last year about then-rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster who saw the field early and often and whose success lends a blueprint for Washington’s in his first year.

Playing in a hurry-up offense for four years undoubtedly helped Washington keep from getting gassed between plays. During offseason workouts, he got his first taste of consistent, every-down huddles and said they offered a welcome reprieve.

“It gives me a chance to catch my breath and then get going again,” Washington said. “I love that. It helps with the play calling, too, because you got time for your brain to process the whole play.”

But it’s more than just running an up-tempo scheme. Washington quickly earned a reputation in Stillwater for his athleticism as well as his work ethic, and that’s followed him to the Steel City.

Six-time Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown has already taken notice of Washington (and Mason Rudolph’s) work ethic after just a handful of summer workouts.

“Typically when you see a young guy, you see a group of guys who are just probably excited about being successful and living the dream finally, but you know when I see those guys, I see, like, two serious guys,” said Brown. “They take it serious, they want to work hard, they got the knack for wanting to be great. So when you see young guys like that, you know they’re going to be special in this league.”

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