And fellow tight end Pat Freiermuth is excited, too. You hear all the time about players getting pissed off when their team drafts their position. But not Freiermuth. He’s glad to have the help. He took to Twitter immediately after the pick to shout out his new teammate, Darnell Washington. “Welcome to the room! Let’s go man!!”
Matt Canada seconds that emotion. “Really excited about the pick we just had [Darnell Washington] and what he can bring to the table, a versatile guy that can block,” he told Steelers media after the pick. “You guys have seen the tape, but how physically he plays and he also does some things after the catch. So, really excited about it.”
“They had so many weapons at Georgia and I’m not sure his totals are maybe what you might think they could be.”
It’s hard to overshadow a 6-foot-7, 264-pound athletic specimen, but that’s what happened during Washington’s time as a Bulldog. He spent his final season behind sophomore star tight end Brock Bowers, and now-Steelers receiver George Pickens in seasons prior. But he finally emerged to log respectable numbers (454 yards, two touchdowns) after two seasons of sub-200 yards.
You’ll hear it time and time again over the next several months. Washington on the field is akin to an extra offensive lineman. He takes great pride in his tremendous skills and contributions as a blocker but is a low-volume receiver. From the sound of it, that’s just how he’ll be used in his offense.
“He’s a giant human being that takes pride in blocking,” Canada answered about what stood out about Washington. “He enjoys being a blocker. I think he’s been quoted saying he’s a sixth offensive lineman. He understands what his body can do, and I do think he can catch balls.”
Freiermuth improved his blocking from Penn State but has struggled at times in the pros. Washington will more than make up for it, allowing Freiermuth to stick to what he does best – catch passes.
Injury Concerns About Steelers TE Darnell Washington
Not many believed Darnell Washington, 21, would be there for the taking at No. 93. Some projections had him as TE1, expected to go late first-early second. The Pittsburgh Steelers traded back 13 picks and still got their man. Tight end wasn’t necessarily a need for the Black & Gold, but it could’ve been a scenario where Washington was the best player available on the board (and he was, by far), so they snagged him.
Pittsburgh was able to land tremendous value much later than expected. Sometimes medicals are enough of a concern that a player slides down teams’ boards (or is removed entirely), and that’s exactly what happened here.
The current concern surrounds swelling from knee surgery, but just it’s the latest in a laundry list of issues in the last year. Washington entered 2022 with high hopes but suffered a significant setback during spring practice by suffering a foot injury that forced him to miss the entire spring practice. He remained healthy for the season, allowing him to put up the best numbers of his collegiate career. But he suffered a left ankle injury in the first half of Georgia’s December 31 Peach Bowl victory over Ohio State.
Injuries are an inevitable part of the game, but the Steelers were able to see beyond that and make a value decision. Washington will be an integral part of moving this offense forward if he can stay healthy.