Pick any round of the NFL Draft. Whichever one you land on, the Pittsburgh Steelers likely got a player who should’ve been drafted much earlier than when he heard his name called.
At the top of the second round, Joey Porter Jr. got the call to come back home to Pittsburgh after the pre-draft cycle named him a likely first-round pick. Later in that same round, Keeanu Benton was tabbed to become the next great Steelers defensive tackle.
But no pick of Pittsburgh’s exhibits true value more than third-round selection Darnell Washington. The impressive tight end from Georgia wasn’t too involved in the National Champion’s passing offense, but he was an efficient target who showcased dominance in other ways.
As a top-50 player on Pro Football Focus’ big board, Washington falling all the way to the end of the third round shocked many analysts and fans alike. PFF’s Trevor Sikkema went as far to say the Steelers’ selecting him at pick No. 93 was the steal of the entire third round.
“At 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds, Georgia tight end Darnell Washington came in at No. 37 on PFF’s final big board. But even taking into account some uncertainty of his receiving ability at the next level, the Steelers getting him at the end of the top 100 was a shock.” – Sikkema on Washington landing in Pittsburgh
Throughout the draft process, Washington was billed as a late-first or early-second round player. The flashes from his 2022 season combined with his otherworldly NFL Scouting Combine performance made for quite a profile. He’s also a massive human being, and those typically are prioritized on the football field.
Washington’s surprising fall had more to do with his medical history, and fears of it hindering his NFL career. While that’s a risk Pittsburgh hopes to mitigate, using one of the last picks in the third round to take on that risk is well worth it.
Other “steals” to make the list was Washington’s former teammate, Nolan Smith, going to the Philadelphia Eagles at the end of the first round, and Adetomiwa Adebawore dropping all the way to the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth round.
In a few years, the NFL is likely to look back at Pittsburgh stopping Washington’s fall on draft night with jealous eyes.