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Darnell Washington Grateful Steelers Were Team Willing To Take A Risk On ‘A Great Player’ After Medical Concerns Caused Stock To Drop

If Pittsburgh Steelers fans were happy with the way the first day of the 2023 NFL Draft went, then they may well feel somewhere closer to ecstatic about day two. Not only did they have Joey Porter Jr. sitting there waiting for them at the top of the second round, they even got to cap off the day by landing tight end Darnell Washington, whose stock seemed to fall due to injury concerns.

The Steelers were among the teams that brought him in for a pre-draft visit, so they have to feel comfortable with the homework that they put in on Washington, who checked in at 6’7”, 264 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine. He has no such concerns himself—though do players ever?

“I feel great man, something they probably had concern with is probably the knees because I am tall and a bigger guy but, they’re talking about some knee swelling”, he said during his post-selection press conference with the local media, via the team’s media department. “I had surgery on the right one, but it was just to clean some cartilage up.

“There was no tear, no break, no fracture, no nothing. For people to say that, I mean, all the concerns, at the end of the day, it’s just teams taking risks on us players and no other teams wanted to take a risk. For me, a great player, and that’s what Pittsburgh got”.

I think even the teams who passed on him would agree with that, or at least most would, because the work that he did on the field for the Georgia Bulldogs was pretty impressive and certainly puts him in the category of one of the better two-way tight ends to come out of school in recent years.

Which is exactly what the Steelers covet. They very rarely even look in the direction of pure receiving tight ends. They brought in Eric Ebron in 2020 and asked him to block, albeit not entirely successfully. There’s no question that Washington will play a big role as a blocker here.

And chances are that would have been the case no matter where he went, which one could argue makes the concerns about his long-term durability more relevant. If he’s putting in that torque on his knees as an in-line blocker, if there are concerns about even swelling, that could certainly crop up.

Truth be told, the tight end position has one of the higher injury rates in football, and the football gods don’t care how great you are. Just think about the injury issues that somebody like Rob Gronkowski had over the years. Tyler Eifert would have had a longer and more consistent career if not for his injuries.

Perhaps the Steelers had some concerns about Washington’s long-term durability as well. That would help explain why they were been willing to trade so far away from him when they were sitting at 80 in the third round and moved all the way back to 93, posing a significant chance of losing out on him. But by 93, his potential to be, as Washington says, “a great player”, was just too high to pass over again.

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