2. Darnell Washington
Generally, it’s difficult for rookie tight ends to quickly acclimate to the NFL and generate success. They are essentially asked to learn two positions (wide receiver and offensive line) and win their matchups at both.
Furthermore, a tight end has never won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award, and Jeremy Shockey was the only tight end to win the official Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year Award in 2002, the first year the award was given. Therefore, perhaps ranking Darnell Washington as the Steelers’ rookie second-most likely to win the award is silly.
However, Washington could be ideally situated to break that trend. He’s obviously a physical and athletic marvel. He’s also coming to the NFL as an experienced, talented, and very willing blocker. But perhaps the most essential factor is that Washington is uniquely situated to produce where it matters: the red zone. Because of his size, he will immediately be a weapon that can make tough catches around the goal line.
Furthermore, Kenny Pickett already displayed a willingness to give receivers, especially contested catch mavens like George Pickens, chances to go up and get it. It would not be surprising to see Washington lead all rookies in receiving touchdowns, given his physical tools and how he will be used in the offense.