PITTSBURGH — For Pittsburgh Steelers rookie tight ends, the blocking sled is the closest thing there is to an initiation to the NFL.
It’s not that they don’t have blocking sleds in college, but the way an NFL tight end can move the sled is usually a good bit different than the way a college player can.
There have been many new tight ends that got to Pittsburgh, got their first crack at the sled under the watchful eyes of head coach Mike Tomlin — it’s one of his favorite drills to watch — and tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts or his predecessor James Daniels, only to fail miserably and get pushed to the back of the line.
Of course, Steelers 2023 third-round draft pick Darell Washington isn’t like most rookie tight ends. The 6-foot-7, 264-pounder is practically the size of an offensive lineman. In fact, he calls himself a sixth offensive lineman.
So how did his first crack at that sled in an NFL practice go? Washington tried to play it cool, but he did about as well as it can possibly be done.
“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.”
Washington has the size and strength to be an excellent blocker, but he’s showing early on in the NFL career that he’s not just big, but a solid technician in the art of moving men around.
The blocking sled isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to tight end play, but it’s certainly a good first step toward the team trusting Washington with some early playing time as a rookie.