Steelers Activate WR from COVID-19 List, Release LB


Getty Pittsburgh Steelers WR James Washington, left, celebrates with teammates Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Today the Pittsburgh Steelers activated third-year wide receiver James Washington off the reserve COVID-19 list. Washington was placed on the list on Aug. 2.

Washington, a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, blossomed during the second half of the 2019 season, and still hopes to become one of the team’s starting wide receivers. He contributed 44 receptions for 735 yards and three touchdowns last season, but he was Pro Football Focus28th-ranked receiver during the second half of last year.

To make room for Washington on the roster the Steelers released linebacker John Houston, an undrafted rookie free agent from the University of Southern California who was signed after the 2020 NFL Draft. Houston recorded 104 combined tackles during his senior season at USC, including seven tackles for loss, two-and-a-half sacks and three passes defensed.

Steelers Now Have 2 Players on the COVID-19 List

With Washington off of the COVID-19 list the Steelers now have only two players on the list, one on offense and one on defense.

Running back Jaylen Samuels was added to the list on Aug. 2, the same day as Washington. When Samuels returns he will be competing for a backup running back job behind starter James Conner. His competition includes Benny Snell Jr., Kerrith Whyte, Trey Edmunds and rookie fourth-rounder Anthony McFarland Jr.

Cornerback Justin Layne was added to the COVID-19 list on July 29. Layne was drafted by the Steelers in the third round of last year’s draft with the 66th overall selection. He played in ten games as rookie, mostly on special teams, but made more and more of an impression on head coach Mike Tomlin as the season went on.

The reserve/COVID-19 list was created for a player who either tests positive for COVID-19 or who has been quarantined after having been in close contact with an infected person. If a player falls into either of these categories, their club is required to immediately place the player on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Per NFL-NFLPA policy, clubs are not permitted to comment on a player’s medical status other than referring to roster status. In other words, teams may not disclose whether a player is in quarantine or is positive for COVID-19.

No Pittsburgh Steelers Players Opted-Out

In other news, not a single Pittsburgh Steelers player opted-out of the 2020 season. Only three NFL teams—the Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Chargers being the other two—had no players elect to opt-out because of the threat of the coronavirus.

Some NFL observers wondered whether cancer survivor James Conner might choose to opt out, but his participation was never in doubt, as he confirmed early on that he planned to play in 2020. The Steelers have made substantial modifications at Heinz Field to facilitate player safety, including the addition of an outdoor weight room.

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