The Pittsburgh Steelers capped off Friday night trading back from 80 overall to 93 in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, picking up a fourth-round pick in the deal with the Carolina Panthers. Despite moving down 13 spots, Pittsburgh managed to nab possibly one of the biggest steals in the entire draft, selecting Georgia TE Darnell Washington at 93rd overall in the third round.
OC Matt Canada took the podium after the selection was made to field questions about Pittsburgh’s latest addition to the offense. When asked about Washington’s prowess as a blocker in the run game, Canada didn’t hold back his praise for Washington and the unique skill set he brings to the offense.
“He’s a giant human being that takes pride in blocking. He enjoys being a blocker,” Canada said to the media Friday via video from the Steelers’ Twitter page. “Like he’s been quoted saying he’s the sixth offensive lineman. He understands what his body can do. I do think that he can catch some balls. The had so many weapons at Georgia. I not sure his totals were what you’d think they could be, but he is definitely a blocker. And as a guy, we met him there in Indy and had him back and just a really, really good person. Likes football. Likes being physical and we’re really excited about him.”
Washington famously nicknamed himself “The Sixth Lineman” due to his strengths as a blocker. He can easily get mistaken for a leaner offensive tackle as Washington is a hulking human, standing 6’7”, 264lb with a muscular, chiseled frame. He possesses 34 3/8” arms and 11” hands, having the size and length to dwarf most players at his position. Those measurables show up in how he plays the game as a blocker, imposing his will on defenders as he overwhelms them with size and power.
Washington’s sheer size also pays dividends as a pass catcher. He has a phenomenal catch radius, allowing him to come down with combative catches against smaller defensive backs and linebackers. He was hardly used in the passing game at Georgia due to being behind Brock Bowers as well as being utilized more as an in-line blocker. Still, Washington is truly a mismatch nightmare in the red zone and over the middle of the field, having the speed (4.64 40) to run away from linebackers as well as the size to overpower corners and safeties for the football.
As Canada said above, the Steelers had interest in Washington dating back to the NFL Combine where they had a formal interview with him. The interest in Washington become real for many Steelers fans after he was officially brought in for a pre-draft visit to Pittsburgh, making it possible that he could end up a Steeler.
The notion was that Pittsburgh would have to take Washington at #32 to get him, if not #49. However, they managed to trade down in the third round and still secure one of the best value picks in the draft. GM Omar Khan is crushing his first draft. He capped off a successful Day Two by drafting a unicorn player in Darnell Washington, one who can be a weapon as a pass catcher as well as a blocker to beef up Pittsburgh’s offensive attack.