Film Room: The Steelers May Have A Marcedes Lewis Clone In TE Darnell Washington

The Pittsburgh Steelers were fortunate to walk away from the 2023 NFL Draft with Darnell Washington, after nabbing the Georgia TE in the third round at #93 overall. Washington fell due to medical concerns but appears fully healthy after playing the 2022 season for the national champion Bulldogs, competing at the NFL Combine and his Pro Day, and participating in Pittsburgh’s rookie minicamp last weekend.

Washington’s size has been well-documented as the “Sixth Offensive Lineman” stands 6’7, 264lb and is a dominant run blocker while also flashing as a pass catcher. There are few body types like Washington’s in the NFL, and while some have been brave enough to throw out the Rob Gronkowski comparisons, a safer pro comparison I have gravitated toward is current Packer and long-time Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis.

The Stats

Below are the measurables of Darnell Washington and Marcedes Lewis coming out of college with Washington in this year’s draft class and Lewis getting drafted with the 28th pick in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft out of UCLA.

Darnell Washington

6’6 5/8”, 264lb, 34 3/8” arm, 11” hand, 4.64 40, 4.08 short shuttle, 31.0 vert, 10’2” broad, 21 bench reps

Marcedes Lewis

6’6 3/8”, 261lb, 34 3/8” arm, 10” hand, 4.85 40, 4.82 short shuttle, 37.0 vert, 9’10” broad, 23 bench reps

As you can see, Washington and Lewis are near identical when it comes to height and weight relative to their frames. Their arm length is identical while Washington has a slightly larger hand. Washington tested much faster than Lewis both in the 40 and in the short shuttle, but Lewis was far better in the vertical jump that Washington. Their broad jumps were nearly the same as well as their reps on the bench press.


Shortly after the selection of Washington, I posted a film room on Steelers Depot highlighting his effectiveness as a blocker. He is a devastating presence in the run game, using his size, length, and strength to overwhelm smaller defenders at the point of attack as well as handle edge defenders.

When you watch Lewis, you see that same aggression and effectiveness as a blocker, which is not surprising since Lewis has been one of the best blocking TEs for nearly two decades. He has that same size and length to get hands on defenders right after the snap as well as possessing the effort to finish blocks and put defenders into the ground like Washington does.

Lewis has the strength to base block opposing DEs and OLBs standing up on the edge as you can see in the clip below, effectively acting as a third OT in the run game. Washington possesses that same skill set, earning his nickname for being able to handle edge defenders in the running game as well as in pass protection.

Pass Catching

Lewis was far more of an accomplished pass catcher coming out of UCLA than Washington from a statistical standpoint, posting over 1,500 yards in four seasons with 21 TDs. However, when you put the tape of both players side-by-side, you see similarities in their games as pass catchers. Lewis uses his size well in the red zone to make contested catches over and around opposing DBs as you can see in the clips below. He makes an impressive one-handed grab in the second clip against the Cardinals, showing his body control and focusing on the football.

When you watch Washington work in the pass game, you see a near-identical player who presents a matchup nightmare for opposing LBs and DBs tasked with covering him in the red zone. Take a look at the clips below of Washington making a contested catch in the red zone for a score as well as making an impressive one-handed grab, similar to Lewis’ catch above.

While primarily known for being blocking TEs, both Washington and Lewis have the skill set to work the middle of the field, make possession-down catches, and even strength the seam vertically thanks to their height and the mismatches they create in coverage. Watch the clips below of both Washington and Lewis working the middle of the field, stretching the seam to put opposing defenses in a bind due to their size and athleticism.

Both TEs are near impossible to cover one-on-one in jump ball situations given their height and leaping ability. You can see that below with Lewis levitating up to pluck the ball out of the air for the score in the end zone. Washington runs a go route from the perimeter and manages to reach back and make the catch behind his body with the defender attempting to knock the ball out, coming up with the chunk play.


The Pittsburgh Steelers got a gift with Darnell Washington lasting as long as he did, and should he stay healthy, he can become quite the NFL player both from a pass catching and blocking perspective. While he is a better athlete than Marcedes Lewis was coming out of college, Lewis is a realistic pro comp for what we should hope Washington to become with Lewis having played 17 seasons in the league and having amassed 432 receptions for 5,084 yards and 39 TDs while being one of the best-blocking TEs in the game.

Could Washington outperform Lewis from a receiving perspective and be more of a Gronkowski-type player? Possibly. But given the offensive identity Pittsburgh wants to have and the fact that he is still developing as a receiver, projecting Darnell Washington to have a Marcedes Lewis type of career would be a stellar get for Pittsburgh in the third round.

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