Darnell Washington should model his game after a 40-year-old TE still playing

This is the perfect example of who Darnell Washington could be in the NFL with coaching and refinement.
Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings
Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings / Todd Rosenberg/GettyImages

During the 2023 pre-draft process, it was impossible to ignore Darnell Washington. The former Georgia product showed flashes on film and he turned heads at the NFL Combine with his rare size and testing numbers. Because of this, Steelers fans were thrilled when Pittsburgh pulled the trigger on Washington in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Unfortunately, Washington isn't off to the promising start that everyone hoped they would see.

In his first season, the former Georgia product had an opportunity fall into his lap when Pat Freiermuth suffered a hamstring injury. Despite logging 511 offensive snaps in his first season in 2023, Washington turned 7 starts into just 7 receptions on 10 targets for 61 yards -- failing to catch a touchdown pass.

Much of this is out of his control. When Matt Canada is dialing up plays and Kenny Pickett is under center, skill players can only do so much. While the circumstances in Pittsburgh have changed, that doesn't mean that Washington is suddenly going to become a dynamic NFL tight end.

One thing that was evident about Washington is that he's not a nimble athlete. At 6'7'' and 270 pounds, who could expect him to be? Because of his lack of hip flexibility and lumbering movements, he may never be a real threat as a receiver... but that doesn't mean he can't have an outstanding NFL career.

Steelers must groom Darnell Washington to become Marcedes Lewis

Recently, ESPN Insider Adam Schefter announced that long-time NFL tight end Marcedes Lewis re-signed with the Chicago Bears for a record 19th season. Astonishingly, Lewis is 40 years old and entering his new one-year deal in 2024.

Lewis was a member of the Jaguars from age 22 to age 33 before spending five seasons with the Green Bay Packers. He is now set to play his second season with the Bears.

Lewis was able to have an illustrious NFL career despite topping 550 receiving yards just once in 19 seasons. It wasn't his receiving ability that made him special; rather it was his unmatched size and strength at the point of attack that allowed him to develop into one of the best blocking tight ends in the league.

At 6'7'' and 261 pounds, Lewis possesses a frame that few tight ends have in the NFL. As the years went on, he proved to be one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL. This is who the Pittsburgh Steelers should be trying to turn Darnell Washington into.

Like Lewis, Washington is exceptionally rare from a height, weight, and length standpoint. We already know that he has tremendous power, but his technique needs a lot of work. If he can hone in on his craft, who's to say that he can't also become one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL?

This isn't to say that Washington is going to have an NFL career that spans over two decades. That's just not reasonable. However, the Steelers might be able to keep him around for a very long time if they can help him develop into the perfect 'Y' tight end.