View Full Version : Steelers' Washington showing NFL the man from Tiffin belongs

09-09-2006, 11:03 PM
Steelers' Washington showing NFL the man from Tiffin belongs
Sunday, September 10, 2006

By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

With bright lights, a big football night, a national-television audience tuned in and a near-record number of Heinz Field patrons turned on, Nate Washington leaped high into the sky and came back down to earth with a touchdown. His first. His Super Bowl-winning team's first of the season. His first official catch in the NFL.

One problem, though.

He forgot the ball.

"I didn't really know how to celebrate," the Steelers' second-year receiver recalled later. "Actually, I didn't think anything of it, because I spiked it by accident.

"I ran off the field, and somebody said, 'Where's your ball at?' I thought about it, like, 'Oh, man ... ' "

This would explain why, around the midnight hour, Thursday night to Friday morning, Steelers field manager Rich Baker was leaning around a gaggle of media at Washington's locker and reassuring him: Don't worry, we got it.

Fear not for Washington. A former practice squad member, a player seemingly deemed expendable after his employers selected not one but two receivers in the early rounds of April's draft, a player with a football pedigree this league hadn't seen in some 80 seasons, the young man who turned 23 just a week and a half earlier appears ready to put both Tiffin University on the map (1,297 students at the Toledo, Ohio, school) and his capable hands around an important position (Steelers No. 3 receiver).

True, it's early. Very early. Just one game into the season, a 28-17 Steelers triumph Thursday against Miami. But in that one game, a certain 6-foot-1, 185-pound receiver -- heretofore unused outside of the AFC championship game, which we'll discuss in a minute -- amassed two catches for first downs, ran a reverse for another and scored one of the team's three offensive touchdowns. That, fellow receiver Cedrick Wilson marveled, "was a pretty good catch." Washington wasn't merely the first receiver off the sideline for the Steelers. He was a prime target, a critical piece, in the offense directed by spot-starter Charlie Batch.

Five times on third down, Batch and the Steelers went looking for the second-year pro from Tiffin.

The first two instances came on the home side's opening drives. Of the first, a frustrated Washington offered of that middle route on a third-and-4: "I felt like, the first pass, I took a picture of the pass, and they stripped it away from me." On the second, a third-and-14, Batch and Washington failed to connect -- and these are fellows so connected, Washington was cut so the team could keep Batch on the roster in September 2005, then Washington was signed to the practice squad and later activated to the point where he regularly worked with Batch in practice. As Washington put it, "I've always felt comfortable with Charlie. When I came in last year, that's who I was playing with a lot."

Perhaps that explains why the third time was charmed.

On third-and-2 at the Miami 27, on the second play of the second quarter, Batch called a pass where Washington was the primary target, streaking up the right sideline. "My heart was pounding," Washington said.

Travares Tillman, a veteran Dolphins safety, lay in wait. Such an action, based on offensive reads, told the receiver that his quarterback most likely would look elsewhere. But what does a second-year receiver know, particularly one with a single previous game of regular-season experience -- Jacksonville last Oct. 16 -- and pieces of three playoff contests?

"I wasn't really expecting him to give me a chance, being the safety was up top," said Washington. "But I'm glad Charlie gave me a chance. He just threw it up. I went up and made a play. It felt real good coming down with the ball."

Even if he left it behind in the end zone.

The Steelers coaches have an affinity for Washington because of his presence of mind, that missed bauble notwithstanding. Sure, his 13-yard reception on third down early in the AFC championship game at Denver was a crucial catch, placing the Steelers at the Denver 33. Yet it was on the next third down when he impressed everyone: Ben Roethlisberger threw in the end zone for Washington, who knocked away the errant pass before Broncos safety Domonique Foxworth could intercept, and the Steelers were on their way. His cool, composed demeanor is one reason why coaches considered him a potential contributor when Antwaan Randle-El went to Washington.

Worry not about Washington's arm, for Cedrick Wilson -- a former high school QB -- can handle any receiver throwing duties a la the departed free-agent Randle-El. But Washington displayed nimble feet, much like Randle-El, in taking a Verron Haynes handoff and scooting 8 yards around left end on a third-and-6 from the Dolphins 21. This fourth-quarter reverse netted a third third-down conversion for Washington, who moments earlier made another on a nifty, 5-yard catch and run off a screen on third-and-2.

"I had ... an OK game. An OK game," said Washington, the NFL's first Tiffin man since center-guard-tackle-fullback-halfback Walt Jean toiled for the Pottsville Maroons in 1927.


One For The Thumb!!
09-10-2006, 12:32 PM
I love this guy...i knew when i saw him at training camp last year he was goin to be a good player....im knew to this so everybody hi im Dylan i live in altoona, Pennsylvania..im a big steeler fan of course and i love football...

09-10-2006, 01:58 PM
This is pretty sweet, I played against this dude in college.

09-12-2006, 08:30 AM
Washington grows more comfortable

By John Grupp
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

By most accounts, Nate Washington's final home college football game at tiny Tiffin University drew about 350 fans.
It was Oct. 30, 2004, and Tiffin beat Walsh that day.

So it's understandable the former undrafted free agent felt rewarded when he ran onto the field in front of the third-largest crowd in Heinz Field history before the Steelers' 28-17 season-opening victory against the Miami Dolphins.

"I felt good," he said. "You come out and you work so hard and you know there are people behind you."

In front of a national television audience and a Terrible Towel-waving crowd, Washington may have arrived as a key part of the Steelers' receiving game.

The second-year wide receiver made a leaping catch for a 27-yard touchdown to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead. It was Washington's first NFL regular-season reception and first touchdown.

Washington also made big plays on a pair of third-down conversions -- a 5-yard reception on a third-and-two to midfield and an 8-yard end-around on third-and-six to the Miami 13. The drive ended with Charlie Batch's fumbled snap at the Dolphins' 1, but Washington proved his versatility.

He finished with two receptions for 32 yards and one touchdown, and one carry for 8 yards.

"I'm getting more comfortable," Washington said. "I'm a lot more relaxed when they call my number."

After the game, Washington stood outside his locker with an ice wrap on his right knee, speaking to a group of reporters.

"I had an OK day," he said. "There are a couple of things that I definitely need to get better on during the season if I'm going to be an accountable guy. I did all right for my first regular-season game. But I definitely have a lot more to get better."

On his touchdown pass, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Washington used his 39-inch vertical leap to outjump 6-foot-1 Dolphins free safety Travares Tillman for a highlight-reel catch.

"Nate is a big guy, and I wanted to give him an opportunity," Batch said. "Nate always talks about how much of a vertical leap he has. I put it up there, and Nate made a great play."

Admittedly, Washington made a rookie mistake after the touchdown. He spiked the ball and ran toward his celebrating teammates. Somewhere along the way, the memento -- his first NFL touchdown ball -- was lost in the shuffle.

"I spiked it by accident, and I ran off the field and somebody asked 'Where's your ball?' Washington said. "I thought about it, and I went 'Oh, man.' I was so excited; it didn't even matter to me right then."

Washington appeared in only one game last season but then played in the final three postseason games, including the Super Bowl, after Quincy Morgan was injured.

Washington made his mark in the AFC Championship Game at Denver. On the Steelers' first scoring drive, he made a nifty 13-yard catch along the sideline on third-and-seven and then broke up a certain interception later in the drive.

Washington never moped when the Steelers drafted Santonio Holmes in the first round and Willie Reid in the third round of the 2006 draft. The all-time leading receiver at Division II Tiffin just worked harder. On Thursday, No. 2 receiver Cedrick Wilson didn't catch a pass, and Reid was inactive.

"They have great faith in me," Washington said. "Hopefully, I can show up every Sunday for them."

Washington's role with the team could change when Ben Roethlisberger returns from appendicitis. Washington worked extensively with Batch and the other second-stringers during the team's 2005 mini-camp. The two have developed a bit of a rapport.

"I've always felt comfortable with Charlie," Washington said. "When I came in last year, that's who I was playing with a lot."


09-12-2006, 09:14 AM
I really enjoyed those articles, 83 - thanks. :smile: This young man is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the coming seasons. I love his great attitude and determination. He's a keeper. :cool:

09-12-2006, 11:25 AM
Wow, this guy has some hops. I guess I never realized he could jump that high. That could come in handy when he is matched up against some of the shorter DB's in the league.

09-12-2006, 12:36 PM
I thougth he would have helped us last season.. he did so well in the preseason last year i was shocked that he wasnt on the team then instead of Mays.. Is good he is getting his opportunity this year and making the most of it so far !!

09-12-2006, 10:02 PM
Here a couple of pics from his TD catch