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How Darnell Washington fits with the Steelers

Third Round, Darnell Washington, TE, 6-6, 264 lbs, Junior, Georgia

The Steelers made a trade back in the third round with the Carolina Panthers, moving back from 80 to 93 to pick up the 132nd selection and take Georgia tight end Darnell Washington, adding their second blocker from the two-time defending national champions. Thursday, they selected offensive tackle Broderick Jones in the first round of the draft.

A massive, athletic tight end, Washington was utilized mostly as a blocker at Georgia, catching just 45 passes for 774 yards and three touchdowns. But there were reasons for that. First, Georgia wasn't throwing the ball a lot late in games. And secondly, the Bulldogs have a tight end in Brock Bowers who probably will be a first-round draft pick in 2024.

But Washington showed at the NFL Scouting Combine he's more than just a blocker, running a 4.64-second 40-yard dash with a 1.61-second 10-yard split and looking fluid in the pass catching drills.

He obviously trimmed down for the Combine to run faster, weighing in at 264 pounds there but 272 pounds at the Georgia pro day.

Washington won as a blocker in college because of his size and strength, but he'll need to continue to refine his technique at the NFL level. But unlike many tight ends coming out of college, he's also not a stranger to lining up in-line. He did that on two-thirds of his collegiate snaps.

"He's a giant human being that takes pride in blocking," said Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada. "He enjoys being a blocker. He understands what his body can do. He can catch some balls. They had so many weapons at Georgia that I don't think his totals would be what you might think they could be, but he is definitely a blocker."

That role of the No. 2 blocking tight end behind Pat Freiermuth currently falls on veteran Zach Gentry, who was re-signed to a one-year deal this offseason, but the Steelers did use more two and three tight end sets in 2022 than they had in previous years.

The addition of Washington also would seem to signal that 2022 sixth-round draft pick Connor Heyward will be making a move to fullback on a more permanent basis, though he is still certainly capable of doing some tight end work as he showed in his rookie season.

The Steelers have the capability to line up in a big package with Freiermuth, Gentry and Washington on the field and run the ball, or split people out wide out of that package and throw it.

• Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast