The Pittsburgh Steelers got a potential steal in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft when they selected Georgia tight end Darnell Washington. Washington is a freak athlete at 6’7 who was the best run-blocking tight end in the draft and has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL right off the bat. Still, he’s got a lot to learn when it comes to transitioning to the NFL from the collegiate level. After OTAs on Wednesday, Washington talked about some of the differences he’s encountered.
“Every throw is right there. It’s different from college or high school, like high school not every throw is perfect. When you get here, everything’s on the timing thing. I gotta be right, I gotta get my routes right, or whatever it may be,” Washington said via Steelers Live on Twitter.
Washington also said that he believed that he would know a lot about the NFL and playing tight end in the league because he came out of Georgia, a program that’s sent a boatload of players to the league in recent years. He quickly realized though that he doesn’t know as much as he thought.
“I still got tons of things to learn,” Washington said. “When it’s like little details of routes and how to sell it, just a little head movement or things like that.”
Washington also added that one big difference he noticed was the defense playing press man on him, something he said teams never tried to do in college.
The fact that Washington is aware of these differences and is able to process and know what he has to do better is a good sign for his development going forward. His mindset now doesn’t seem to be that he knows what to do just because of the program he went to, and he seems to be realizing there are a lot of differences at the NFL level despite not even facing competition outside of his own team yet.
If Washington can adapt and learn from position coach Alfredo Roberts and his fellow tight ends, including Pat Freiermuth, who should be among the best in the league entering his third season in the league, he’ll be just fine. He seems willing to learn and be taught, which should help him reach the potential that some thought could get him drafted in the first round back in April.
Even if he doesn’t become a top receiving threat at tight end, his blocking will earn him a role in the league, likely for a long time. It should help him see the field immediately in Pittsburgh, and while he might not be a guy who puts up a ton of catches or yards, at 6’7 he automatically becomes a red zone threat.
It’s going to be fun to watch Washington grow and develop in the black and gold. If he can become the team’s next great tight end, that would be pretty sweet.