During his three seasons at the University of Georgia, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie tight end Darnell Washington wasn’t much of a factor in the passing game.
Typically, when tight ends don’t have much of a role in the passing game at the collegiate level, they look to transfer for a situation where they’ll be a factor, or they have a harder time getting to the NFL overall. That wasn’t the case with Washington. He embraced his role as a blocking tight end, serving as the “Sixth Offensive Lineman” for the Bulldogs, who won back-to-back national championships the last two seasons.
Speaking with reporters Friday at the Steelers’ UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side, Washington — who hauled in just 45 career passes for 774 yards and three touchdowns at Georgia — said he didn’t worry too much about not getting the ball in the passing game.
“I feel like everybody in college wants the ball more, a better opportunity to easier way to get to the next level,” Washington said, via audio provided by the Steelers. “But I’ll say for me, when I wasn’t getting the ball more, I had to embrace something and then, I mean, if I’m not getting a ball, what am I doing? I’m blocking. So I just started embracing that role more and that’s how that went from there.”
By embracing his role as a blocker, the 6-foot-7, 270-pounder developed into the arguably the best blocking tight end in the country and the best blocking tight end in the 2023 NFL Draft class. At his size, he was essentially a third offensive tackle and really dominated at the line of scrimmage and in space, throwing his size around at defenders and clearing lanes in the running game for the Bulldogs.
That ability to block and truly dominate at the point of attack while being an athletic tight end made him an attractive prospect. He ultimately went No. 93 overall to the Steelers after falling down the draft some due to a medical concern.
Now, in the NFL and alongside an established pass-catching tight end like Pat Freiermuth, Washington will have to embrace that blocking role again. Doing so will get him onto the field in Pittsburgh quickly, which could lead to more opportunities in the passing game than he saw at Georgia.