PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington didn’t deny making a trade request when he spoke with the media Wednesday, his first public comments since he reportedly asked the organization for a trade.
“That’s a private conversation,” he said. “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.”
A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Washington first approached the team about a trade following the Hall of Fame game, citing his limited playing time last season and so far in the preseason.
Coach Mike Tomlin denied Washington made a request when asked about it on Aug. 7.
“He has not,” Tomlin said. “Those unnamed sources, we don’t react to or respond to. James has been great here, working and having a good camp.”
Asked if he’s approached the coaching staff about an increased role in the offense, Washington acknowledged those conversations have happened.
“It’s been talked about,” he said. “But 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. Just do what I need to do.”
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada, however, previously asserted Washington hadn’t talked to him about it.
“James is awesome,” Canada said. “He comes to work every day. He is a great guy to be around. He hasn’t said a word to me, he just plays hard every day and practices hard every day. I am a huge fan of James. Really am.”
The former 2018 second-round pick missed the Steelers’ second preseason game with a lower-body injury and played 26 snaps in the Hall of Fame game with just two targets.
Washington was more involved in Wednesday’s rainy practice at Heinz Field, taking reps with the first team as Chase Claypool was sidelined with an ankle injury suffered late in Tuesday’s practice.
“With Chase down, I’ve worked with the 1s a little bit more,” Washington said. “All I can keep doing is capitalizing and making the most out of every rep I’m in there.”
A year ago, Washington’s involvement in the offense dropped as he recorded just 30 catches on 56 targets for 392 yards — down from 44 receptions on 80 targets for 735 yards in the 2019 season. Washington scored five touchdowns in 2020 to three in 2019.
Washington may have more opportunities to get on the field in Canada’s offense because the scheme often moves receivers around and plugs them in different roles.
“I just feel like it’s making me a little bit more well-rounded,” Washington said. “That way I can’t just be labeled as an outside receiver because then that may limit you to plays. If anybody goes down, I feel like I can just get in there and pick up the slack. But whatever that may be, I think it just helps me all around.”