Darnell Washington could be more involved in Steelers in passing game 2024

Darnell Washington didn't have much involvement with the Steelers offense beyond blocking in 2023. Could that change in the 2024 season?
Nov 26, 2023; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Darnell Washington (80) completes
Nov 26, 2023; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Darnell Washington (80) completes / Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

In the 2023 draft, the Steelers stole a potential first-round draft pick in the third round. They drafted Darnell Washington, the sizeable tight end from Georgia. They loved his size in combination with their earlier draft pick, Broderick Jones, Washington’s teammate from Georgia.

Washington did not have a stellar season in the statistics department. However, they drafted him to be a blocking tight end while using Pat Freiermuth in the passing game. Washington only had seven receptions for 61 yards.

Looking ahead to the 2024 season, one can't help but wonder if Washington's production totals could see an upswing. The Steelers' team dynamics have undergone significant changes, with the departure of Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky, and Mason Rudolph, and the arrival of Russell Wilson and Justin Fields. These changes in the quarterback lineup could potentially open up new opportunities for Washington in the passing game.

How Darnell Washington could improve

Well, the answer to how he improves is not clear-cut. Part of it depends on who the Steelers take in the draft, especially the first and second rounds. If they take a wide receiver in the first round, then in round 2, they will more than likely take a center if one is still available, which it should be. Thus, the Steelers would still need to utilize him in blocking schemes despite any improvement a center brings.

 However, if the Steelers miss out on a wide receiver, they may take another tackle or guard in the first round and potentially a center in the second. If a scenario like that occurs, Washington could be utilized a bit more in the passing game, which is where the quarterbacks come into play.

How the Steelers quarterbacks make Wahington better

Russell Wilson may not be the same quarterback he was when he played with Seattle, and time will tell how well he performs. Even with a lousy performance, Russell Wilson should still put up better numbers than the Steelers had in 2023. Thus, we could see him target Washington slightly more frequently than last year and perhaps a big play or two in the process.

Conceivably, Arthur Smith may want to take advantage of Washington's height in corner endzone passes. Wilson would be capable of getting the ball to him accurately, at least. Plus, the offensive line will still improve in some capacity, and the Steelers' running game will improve. Assuming it does, and the Steelers run an RPO for short yardage, Washington could have more opportunities.

It's a little murkier how the Steelers use Washington with Justin Fields. There is the potential that Fields will improve with a good coach and a playoff-caliber team. With Fields' rushing ability, they may keep Washington more as a blocker, which could lead to slightly better numbers than in 2023. However, some of this will come down to Arthur Smith and how he feels Washington fits into his offense.

At the end of the day, it's hard to envision the Steelers involving him in the passing game much, but there is a possibility of some improvement. Any measurable offensive production, beyond blocking, that surpasses his receiving totals in 2023 could make it appear he had a breakout season.