“He plays nasty.”
That’s music to Steelers Nation’s ears. And probably to the team itself. Pittsburgh’s offense has been centered around adding big and physical people and TE Darnell Washington checks both boxes. Of course, so does OT Broderick Jones, and the team’s first round pick spoke about what the team is getting with Washington during the team’s three-day rookie minicamp last weekend.
“That’s his game,” Jones said of Washington’s blocking via the team’s YouTube channel. “He thinks of himself as a lineman. That’s how he plays. He plays physical, he plays nasty.”
Washington was regarded as one of the draft’s top blockers, perhaps its best, at least among the first dozen candidates. At 6’7, 260+ pounds with arms nearly as long as Jones’, he had a block-first role in Georgia’s run-heavy offense. With Brock Bowers also in that Bulldogs tight end room, Washington didn’t have many opportunities to catch the ball. But he embraced the blocking side and helped power Georgia to back-to-back national championships.
In Pittsburgh, he’ll function as a #2 tight end behind Pat Freiermuth and asset in 12 personnel for the run-minded Steelers. While his primary job might be to block, Jones thinks Washington can get involved in the passing game, too.
“He’s an athlete. He can go out, he can catch the ball, but the best part of his game is the way he blocks.”
Jones isn’t the offensive coordinator of the team, though some fans would probably prefer him over Matt Canada, but it’s a sentiment the front office has echoed, too. Last week, GM Omar Khan confirmed the same. In joking Washington would become RB Najee Harris’ “best friend,” Khan was quick to point out Washington won’t be a glorified sixth offensive lineman.
“I’m confident that Darnell is going to help in the pass game too,” Khan told 93.7 The Fan.
With a big frame and good hands, Washington can run down the seam and be a problem to tackle in space against defenders. With better weapons and more flexibility — we mentioned the possibility of the team spreading the field out of empty –Pittsburgh’s offense should be in a better place in 2023. At the very least, their red zone offense must improve, stuck at 23rd in the league for the last two years.