With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we have turned our attention to the offseason. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.
Player: TE Darnell Washington
Stock Value: Purchased
Reasoning: The Steelers drafted their second Bulldog of the weekend with the selection of Georgia tight end Darnell Washington in the third round, 93rd overall. He joins a position group that retains all three of its occupants from last season, but they should have no problem accommodating all 6’7”, 270 pounds of the big man.
Whether or not tight end was a need for the Steelers this draft, and how significant that need was, likely varied greatly depending on whom you asked. They still have Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, and Connor Heyward, all returning from last season, all positive contributors.
But they’ll be sure to make room for Darnell Washington, their new tight end. The Georgia Bulldog checks in at a gargantuan 6’7”, 270 pounds, joining Gentry in the big man club, the latter listed at 6’8”, 265 pounds.
The Steelers said that they were very surprised that Washington was available for them at 93, and I think many outsiders would have felt the same way. Most had him being drafted in the second round, rather than late in the third, but reports are that teams were concerned about some medical issues regarding his knees.
Whether grounded or not, it played a role in making him available for Pittsburgh at such a late slot, something like 44 slots after their previous selection in the middle of the second round, at which spot many pre-draft felt he would need to be taken.
One might be inclined to regard another tight end as a luxury, but Washington’s presence can help to greatly diversify the Steelers’ offense—if employed appropriately. A two-way blocking and receiving tight end, his addition combined with Freiermuth could make for a potent and unpredictable 12-personnel look.
That is, one hopes, what the team’s intention is. After all, why would they draft a tight end there if they didn’t intend to put him on the field? It does raise questions about what this room will look like a year from now, though.
For example, does Washington displace Gentry, who is returning on a one-year deal, or do the Steelers find room for everyone? If Heyward successfully transitions to a primary fullback role, it would make it easier to keep everybody in their place. But that’s a good problem to have, so I’m not about to complain.