With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, Donald Washington.
In truth, a player such as Donald Washington is, for an NFL team, is one that presents very little risk, but at least the potential for a decent amount of reward. A former fourth-round draft pick of the Chiefs, the six-foot defensive back played three seasons from 2009 to 2011, but he failed to make the roster in 2012, and spent the next couple of years out of football.
He took to Canada in 2014, playing sparsely that year, but he carved out a role for himself in 2015, recording 20 tackles and a sack in five games before suffering an injury that ended his season. After that, he received a tryout invitation from the Steelers, and he performed well enough to earn a contract for the 90-man roster.
What is interesting is that, though he was a college cornerback, he was moved to safety by the Chiefs, and even started five games, 32 games total, over that three-year period, but the Steelers have brought him in again as a cornerback.
Though he’ll already be turning 30 at the end of the month, on the day the Steelers report for training camp, in fact, it would seem that there could be a roster spot open for him, especially if the team carries six cornerbacks. If not, he will have to beat out Doran Grant, a second-year player.
Washington came out of college with solid speed, good size, and a great vertical, but he has to show that he still has those abilities now that he is already the second-oldest defensive back on the roster. He hasn’t experienced a meaningful NFL game in five years, and that is not to be ignored.
Also of note is that he hasn’t really played cornerback at this level, instead having moved to safety. While they experience as the last line of defense can prove valuable to him, it will only do so in so far as he also shows that he can compete against NFL wide receivers. That is, of course, unless the team moves him back to safety and he can make the roster that way. Still, as a 29-year-old tryout player, it goes without saying that he has to show the coaching staff a lot during training camp.