Grading the Steelers 2023 class: Strong results across the board

Fans should be pleased with the one-year sample from Pittsburgh's 2023 rookie class.

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Broderick Jones
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Broderick Jones / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Steelers grade for Darnell Washington

Grade: B-

It was a very up-and-down rookie season for Darnell Washington. Many were surprised to see him fall as far as he did. There were some rumors of him being a target in the first round, but most expected him to go somewhere in the second round. Instead, the Steelers traded back in the third round and still landed Washington.

The expectations were clear: Washington was a blocker first and a receiver second. While he had some fun receiving tape, he was a raw route runner and his athleticism didn’t show up on game day as it did when he tested. His blocking was a strength though, and he seems to pride himself on his ability to take defenders out of plays.

The beginning of the season was tough for Washington. He wasn’t seeing the field that often, his ability as a receiver was nonexistent, and his blocking was poor. The entire tight end room was struggling, to be fair, but despite Washington’s immense size, he was mostly invisible.

The receiving game never got going, but by year's end, Washington was a force as a blocker. While his early season play saw a mix of good and bad plays in the blocking game, the final stretch really saw him take the bull by the horns. This team was extremely successful out of multi-tight end sets, and Washington was a huge reason for that.

That said, I can’t grade him much higher than a low B, and honestly, he was on the verge of being a C. While the blocking got better, he was expected to be a stout mauler out of the gate. Ideally, he takes some more steps to become a viable tight end in the passing game in year two. That said, there wasn’t anything to complain about from his rookie season.