PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers tight ends work on a run blocking drill under the instruction of coach Alfredo Roberts at practice on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington, Connor Heyward and Rodney Williams II participated in the drill, with Roberts giving extra coaching to the rookie on his footwork. Zach Gentry, the team’s fifth tight end, has been dealing with a minor injury.
The team’s third-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Washington has impressed as both a blocker and a receiver. He finished the preseason with two catches for 15 yards and earned a 55.1 blocking grade over 41 snaps as a run blocker in three games.
Washington has been working behind Freiermuth, Gentry and Heyward in the team’s pecking order at tight end, but the absence of Gentry could allow him to get more reps with first-squad teammates over the final practices before the start of the Steelers’ regular season, which beings on Sept. 10.
In 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.