The Pittsburgh Steelers were fortunate Darnell Washington was still available when in Round 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft. They were even more fortunate when you consider how the team traded their original 3rd Round pick to the Carolina Panthers to move back and obtain a pick in the 4th Round, and Washington was still there.
Most people had a late first round/second round grade on the former University of Georgia tight end, and there is a reason why. With his size and athleticism he can be a nightmare for defensive coordinators.
And Washington knows the kind of mismatch he can be when he puts it all together.
“When I put it all together, I can be a mismatch,” said Washington. “I can be anywhere on the field, whether that’s running routes or if that’s blocking. I need to put it all together. Once I do that, I will be a complete tight end. I am not complete yet. It takes time. Being with Coach Alfredo (Roberts) and working on our game will make it happen.
“I enjoy blocking. I enjoy every aspect of the game. Blocking, running routes, I have done it all. Back in my day, I used to play left tackle and I blocked a whole season. I have played receiver. I have played running back. I have done it all on the field. I enjoy every aspect of the game.
“It means the world to get the opportunity to be at this level now. I am just trying to prove everybody that passed on me wrong and that is what I plan on doing.”
Speaking of blocking, Washington knows what it takes to be successful. Where that all stems from is the mindset to not just be a good blocker, but a willing blocker. Someone who will put their nose in those dirty areas for the betterment of the offense.
“It comes from the mindset,” said Washington. “At tight end, we aren’t just catching balls and scoring touchdowns. We also have to block. If you can’t block, you can’t play in the league for a long time.”
While Washington knows how dominant he can be, he also realizes he is far from a finished product.
“There are lots of things I still need to learn,” said Washington. “I have learned a lot. I played at Georgia, so I thought I would come here and know a lot of things. I still have tons of things to learn, little details, routes, how to sell it. Little things can lead to big things.”
What Washington should be ultimately happy about is the tight end room he has been drafted into. A group of guys like Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry and Connor Heyward who have a great working relationship and are willing to help each other succeed. Who has been a help to him? Everyone.
“I have Pat (Freiermuth) to lean on, Zach (Gentry) to lean on and even Connor (Heyward), he has one more year in than me,” said Washington. “So, for sure my position group. No one specific. A little of everyone. Even the offensive linemen. Everybody.”
If the Steelers can utilized Washington the way he described, as a mismatch, it will make their offense even more dynamic. For a unit which struggled with being labeled as dynamic in 2022, Matt Canada’s group can use all they help they can get.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the 2023 NFL offseason.