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Steelers All 90: Darnell Washington Ready to Hit People at Training Camp



Steelers Darnell Washington

Not many tight ends that have only 45 collegiate receptions received as much hype as Darnell Washington did coming into the draft. The Pittsburgh Steelers bought into the hype and selected him in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

The thing about Washington that excites people is his size and frame. He stands at 6-foot-7 and weighs 264 pounds which is huge for a tight end. But, he is more than just that as even he calls himself a sixth offensive lineman.

His height is reminiscent of fellow tight end Zach Gentry but with more potential in the receiving game than Gentry, Washington’s arrival should eventually damper Gentry’s playing time.

Washington has already impressed his teammates with what he has been able to show at minicamp in regard to his receiving ability since without pads on, he cannot really showcase his run-blocking ability.

“You can see him really making some plays,” Mitch Trubisky said about Washington. “He’s a big target, can run a lot of routes for his size, and as a quarterback you love knowing you have a mismatch guy like that. He’ll learn the playbook and other things like that but he’s really looked good.”

As far as what Washington thought about his performances so far, well he was a bit more modest about all of it. Washington acknowledged that while he excelled in run-blocking at Georgia, he still has work to do there and that his route-running ability needs to be sharper.

“I’d only give my performance a B- or C at best,” Washington said. “My route running was a little inconsistent. We don’t have pads on so I don’t feel like I could show my blocking but I have things to work on there. There’s a lot of things I still want to work on.”

Aside from his shocking receiving ability, Washington also put on a show when practicing with the blocking sleds which is something that Mike Tomlin loves to see. Some rookies get blown back by the sleds and get sent to the back of the line but for the “sixth linemen,” the sleds were a piece of cake.

“We did lots of sled work at Georgia,” Washington said. “It was like once a week, at least. Sometimes, two or three. Sled, I’m not going to say I kind of grew up on it, but in a way, I kinda did. Even in high school, I used the sled. I’m kind of familiar with it in a way. I think I did pretty good for a rook. I’ll still say, there’s still things to clean up.”

While the sled is nothing like a real game, the good first impression with the coaches should increase the chances of him receiving early playing time.

With Pat Freiermuth being the starter, Washington’s arrival should not only help Freiermuth’s production but the running games’ production as well. The Steelers are likely to use a lot more 12 personnel in 2023 which will get both Freiermuth and Washington on the field at the same time.

Nonetheless, Washington is likely to begin the season as the Steelers’ third tight end on the depth chart but has a great opportunity to move past Gentry by the end of the season.

80 • Darnell Washington, Tight End, Georgia
6-foot-7, 264 pounds, 21 years old, 1st Season

Acquired: The Steelers drafted Washington out of the University of Georgia with the 93rd overall pick in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Steelers TE Darnell Washington

Georgia tight end Darnell Washington (0) catches a pass against the LSU Tigers.

Last SeasonIn 2022, Washington started 14 of his 15 appearances as a junior. His production doubled in his last season as a Bulldog as he hauled in 28 of his 43 targets for 454 yards and two touchdowns. He set career-highs in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns in 2022.

Washington recorded a career-high five receptions for 60 yards in a game against Mississippi State and then four receptions and a career-high 78 yards in a game against Vanderbilt. Washington and the Bulldogs would go on to win their second consecutive National Championship in 2022 with a blowout win against TCU, 65-7.

Pro Football Focus gave Washington an above-average 85.7 rating for the 2022 season. According to PFF, he also finished inside of the top 10 for run blocking at his position in 2022.

Steelers Pittsburgh Steelers Darnell Washington 2023 NFL Draft

Georgia tight end Darnell Washington (0) catches a pass against the Florida Gators.

CollegeWashington left high school as a five-star prospect and committed to the University of Georgia during the Under Armour All-American Game on national television. As a true freshman, Washington appeared in 10 games for the Bulldogs. In his 10 appearances, Washington caught seven of his 15 targets for 166 yards. He recorded a season-high three receptions and a season-long 38-yard reception in Georgia’s Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl victory over Cincinnati.

As a sophomore in 2021, Wahington started six of his 11 appearances for Georgia. A preseason injury sidelined him for the first four games of the season. He caught 10 of his 12 targets for 154 yards and one touchdown. His first collegiate touchdown came on a 5-yard reception against Alabama. Washington and the Bulldogs won the National Championship against Alabama in 2021.

In his three seasons at Georgia, Washington appeared 36 games and recorded 27 starts at tight end. He hauled in 45 receptions for 774 yards and three receiving touchdowns. Most of his production in college came in the blocking game as an extra lineman with his 6-foot-7, 264-pound frame.

Year GP GS Targets Receptions Rec Yards Rec TDs PFF Rating
2020 10 7 15 7 166 0 68.9
2021 11 6 12 10 154 1 72.6
2022 15 14 43 28 454 2 85.7

Salary cap and future: Washington is entering the first year of his standard four-year rookie deal with the Steelers and will cost $973,438 against the team’s cap space this season. He is owed a $750,000 base salary and $223,438 in bonus money in 2023. His four-year deal with the Steelers is worth $5.35 million in total money.

Washington is signed with the Steelers through the end of the 2026 season when he will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.

The rest of the 90:

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