Steelers News

‘You Gotta Trust The Process’: Omar Khan Recalls Decision To Draft Darnell Washington Despite Medical Concerns

As Georgia tight end Darnell Washington continued to slide in the 2023 NFL Draft last weekend in Kansas City, the Pittsburgh Steelers were busy behind the scenes re-checking their work on the Bulldogs’ massive offensive weapon.

Washington was largely considered a top 32 prospect in the draft, especially due to his size (6’7″, 270 pounds) and absurd testing numbers at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. That doesn’t even begin to hit on the tape that Washington put together throughout his time at Georgia, showcasing a dominant blocking ability and and real mismatch in the passing game.

But, some medical concerns about his knee caused Washington to fall before the Steelers ultimately took a chance, selecting him at No. 93 overall, getting tremendous value with the selection.

Pittsburgh had a chance to land him at No. 80 overall but traded down with the Carolina Panthers. The Steelers picked up the No. 132 overall pick in the process, which they used to take Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig. The decision to select Washington wasn’t a spur of the moment one for the Steelers, either, at least according to GM Omar Khan.

Appearing on 102.5 WDVE’s morning show Wednesday, Khan recalled the thought process inside the Steelers’ draft room at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex last Friday in the moments leading up to the decision to add Washington to the roster. For Khan, it was all about trusting the process and the overall work the organization had done on the big tight end.

“It happens every round where, there’s always a couple players where you’re sitting there and you’re just, you know, they’re high on your board and they’re dropping, and you owe it to yourself to revisit it, right? You talk about it and say, check your medical, you check your reports, we talk amongst ourselves saying, ‘Hey, well what’s going on here?'” Khan said to the 102.5 WDVE morning show cast, according to audio via iHeart Radio. “And at some point, if your information’s there, you’ve done a lot of homework on these guys before the draft starts, you have to trust in the work that that’s been done. We have some great people, some great scouts, and you gotta trust the process.

“And for players there with a high grade, you just take ’em. I mean, we were really excited to have ’em available there in the third round, and it just worked out.”

It certainly did work out for the Steelers as Pittsburgh added one of the top tight ends in the draft class late on Day 2, pairing the hulking Georgia product with Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry and Connor Heyward in the Steelers’ tight end room under standout position coach Alfredo Roberts.

Pittsburgh brought Washington into town for a pre-draft visit as one of its final 30 allotted visits of the cycle, which certainly raised some eyebrows and created some speculation that there was real interest there. Ultimately that interest was real, but not until it made too much sense for the Steelers to add the mismatch piece to the roster.

The Steelers don’t seem too concerned with Washington’s medical red flag regarding his knee, as they are trusting in the work put in behind the scenes on Washington’s health. We’ll see if the trust in that work pays off in the long run, but the Steelers were no doubt fortunate to land a talent like Washington late in the third round the way they did.

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