Washington, Rudolph rekindle that old college connection ☕


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James Washington and Mason Rudolph celebrate a touchdown pass Friday night at Heinz Field. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

The Steelers finally got an opportunity to see what they had in first-round draft pick Devin Bush. And the results of that were exactly what they expected.

Just as important, they got a nice night of production out of the second-year duo of James Washington and Mason Rudolph as they held off the Buccaneers in their preseason opener, 30-28, Friday night at Heinz Field.

While Bush was all over the field, making 10 tackles in his debut -- all in the first half -- Rudolph and Washington were helping the Steelers forge a 20-10 lead early in the third quarter. Rudolph, who relieved starter Josh Dobbs, completed five of his eight passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns, the first of which was a nicely executed back-shoulder throw to his former Oklahoma State teammate Washington. Washington finished with a team-high four receptions for 84 yards and the touchdown.

He also caught this 43-yard bomb from Dobbs early in the game to get the Steelers out of the shadows of their goal posts:

"I was just making plays and doing whatever I could do to help the team move down the field," said Washington, who struggled as a rookie, catching just 16 passes. "It's just things slowing down for me and knowing more of the playbook, and being a more well-rounded receiver."

It was good news for the Steelers, who didn't play veterans JuJu Smith-Schuster or Donte Moncrief, among many others, in the game. They know what those two can do. But coming into this training camp, the expectation was for Washington to take a big step forward to help the team replace the production of Antonio Brown.

"It shows the coaches and gives them a true evaluation and builds the trust of the quarterbacks, as well," Washington said of his play. "That's a big factor that goes into it."

Washington nearly scored twice. He just missed getting the tip of his left foot in bounds on a throw from Dobbs in the end zone on a corner route early in the second quarter.

"I just missed it," Washington said. "Once I saw it, my foot was barely on the line."

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