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lamberts-lost-tooth
08-05-2006, 10:00 AM
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

His catch in the big game did not appear on a magazine cover, he was not invited to Disney World and there are no book deals in the works.

Receiver Nate Washington was as little known as any of the 46 Steelers who dressed for the AFC championship game in January in Denver. He would have a big hand -- or pair of them -- in starting them on way to a 34-17 victory and a date in Detroit for Super Bowl XL.

Washington, an undrafted rookie last season, made two third-down plays on the same series that not only helped the Steelers take a lead but also are still working in his favor these days at training camp in Latrobe.

The game in Denver was scoreless as the first quarter waned, and a Steelers drive stalled near midfield. Both teams were looking for the opening punch that might start some momentum that could carry them all the way to Detroit. Ben Roethlisberger glanced to his left on third down and threw. Washington, who played in only one regular-season game, made his first NFL reception, a nice catch near the left sideline for 13 yards and a first down at the Broncos' 33.

On the next third down, Roethlisberger threw again toward Washington in the end zone. Washington (6-1, 185) performed even better on this one, reaching out and knocking the ball away before cornerback Domonique Foxworth could intercept it.

Jeff Reed came on after that play to kick a 47-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 3-0 lead they never relinquished on their way to a victory.

Nate the Great was born that day.

"For a rookie in a game that big?" coordinator Ken Whisenhunt replied about the importance of those two plays. "The catch is a catch; that's what you expect. But for a guy to go up and break up the play, that was really big because it kept us alive."

Those plays could be more reason Washington takes the field these days when the Steelers use three receivers or four, despite the presence of two hot-shot rookie draft picks.

As Hines Ward put it yesterday about the game in Denver: "Not being drafted, if he misses the ball or let's the guy pick it off, who knows where Nate might be right now? You get an opportunity, you have to take advantage of it. He'll get more opportunities this year. I look for big things out of him, too."

Those plays were the kind Washington made all last summer that impressed the coaching staff so much that they found room for him on the roster at the expense of one fewer tight end. Washington led the Steelers in the preseason with eight receptions, drawing his inspiration from Willie Parker, another undrafted rookie who made good.

"Willie was hands-down my biggest inspiration last year," Washington said. "I treat Willie like one of my brothers. I look at his situation like it's one of my own. I said if he can do it, I can do it."

Washington fought long odds everywhere to become only the second Tiffin University product to play in the NFL, ending a long drought that stretched back to the 1927 Pottsville Maroons, when center-fullback-guard-halfback-tackle Walt Jean ended his six-year pro career. Washington, a Toledo native, went to tiny Tiffin (1,297 enrollment) in Ohio because none of the big schools wanted him. There, he set eight school records and impressed Steelers scout Phil Kreidler.

All he did last summer was make plays, in practice, in games. He was timed at 4.5 but, as Whisenhunt said, "He has deceptive speed ... good game speed, it shows up when he's going after a ball and separating."

He made the team and was inactive for the first game, then released and put on the practice squad for a game before he was re-signed the following week. He played briefly in one regular-season game, not dressing for the final 11 games. But then Quincy Morgan was hurt in the first playoff game, and Washington put on a uniform as the No. 4 receiver in Indianapolis.

"It was a joyful time, but, at same time, it was like, OK, there's no time to play around any more," Washington said.

His assists in winning the AFC championship helped to put a Super Bowl ring on his finger. Then came April 29 and the first day of the draft. The Steelers not only picked Santonio Holmes in the first round, but they also drafted Willie Reid in the third, both wide receivers from the kind of big schools that rejected Washington.

"My thought was, it's going to be one hard-working offseason for me," Washington said.

Now, it's the two rookies who must catch him. The Steelers did not trade a third-round draft pick to move ahead seven spots in order to draft Holmes and have him not play for long. But that does not mean he will move ahead of Washington this season, merely because they have more money invested in him. Holmes is at split end and Washington plays in the slot as the No. 3 receiver and behind Ward at flanker.

"I didn't worry about the guys they brought in, although I have much respect for Santonio and Willie both," Washington said. "I knew the situation would be in my hands whether I play or not.

"So far, I'm just showing that I can play here also, no matter who they draft, no matter how big, or small I am, I can play here at this level."

83-Steelers-43
08-07-2006, 06:11 PM
Thanks for the good read. I'd love nothing more than to see Nate step on up this season and show this team and the fans what he's really worth. I have confidence. GO NATE!

AZ_Steeler
08-07-2006, 07:22 PM
I really think Nate could be a real threat and fly under the radar. With the other WR's like Ward, Wilson, Holmes and even Morgan opposing teams could easily forgot about Nate and end up getting burned.

I really like what I saw from him the playoffs.

83-Steelers-43
08-07-2006, 07:26 PM
I really think Nate could be a real threat and fly under the radar. With the other WR's like Ward, Wilson, Holmes and even Morgan opposing teams could easily forgot about Nate and end up getting burned.

I really like what I saw from him the playoffs.

Your right brother. These past playoffs were a perfect example. I will take it a step further and state Holmes and even Wilson should be looking over their shoulders (Holmes in particular) during camp and throughout the season.

Maybe I'm pimping this kid too hard...lol, but I love what I hear and I love what I see. If that is the case, tell me to shut and stop pimping this kid...:smile:

Black@Gold Forever32
08-07-2006, 07:33 PM
Your right brother. These past playoffs were a perfect example. I will take it a step further and state Holmes and even Wilson should be looking over their shoulders (Holmes in particular) during camp and throughout the season.

Maybe I'm pimping this kid too hard...lol, but I love what I hear and I love what I see. If that is the case, tell me to shut and stop pimping this kid...:smile:

Your not pimping this kid to hard at all. You know what I liked most about Nate Washington in the AFC title game was how he broke up that INT in the endzone. I looked at my brother when Nate did that and said some vet WR's don't do that. I remember twice last year when Morgan gave poor effort to break up INT's. In the Jaqs game when Tommy threw the pick to Mathis that he returned for the game winner. Granted Maddox threw a terrible ball but Morgan didn't give much of a effort to break it up. Then in the Lions game Morgan could have broke up one of the INT's Ben threw.

I like Morgan and I'm probally nit picking him. But I'm just trying to use an example on how Washington for such a young player understands the little things in a game like breaking up INT and saving your offense from a turn over.

bratsinmybelly
08-07-2006, 08:32 PM
Isn't it cool how the Steelers seem to find talent in the most unlikely places. Here's a kid who hails from the mighty Tiffin College that just might make a career out of it! We've always been a team that spots talent where others don't. It's an edge that we've had for as long as I've watched them. Not to take anything away from Nate, he's worked very hard to get this opportunity. I just hope he's happy in black & gold because I think he's gonna be a good one.

83-Steelers-43
08-07-2006, 08:38 PM
Tiffin College = Two NFL football players (that's counting Nate)....lol.

bratsinmybelly
08-07-2006, 08:50 PM
Go Dragons!!!!!

Elvis
08-07-2006, 09:00 PM
The Steelers have always been good at pickin' up the talent in late rounds. I love the way Nate Washington has came out of nowhere.... that just gives hope to the other young small school players that they can come in undrafted and still make an impact. I remember a guy back in the mid 80's I guess.. a guy named Justin Stryczyek... I dont know if I spelled that right or not but he was I believe a 10th round pick... we dont even have 10 rounds anymore.. he played LT for us for several years and played well.
So dont ever count out the late rounders and free agents.

83-Steelers-43
08-08-2006, 07:56 AM
Looks like we might see more of Nate this Saturday.....


Washington might start

Wide receiver Hines Ward missed both practices again with a sore left hamstring, which could keep him out of Saturday's game. If so, second-year pro Nate Washington would start at flanker.

"I think one guy who's really doing a great job is Nate Washington," Roethlisberger said. "I don't want to talk too much about him because his head might get too big but he's doing a great job right now." - PPG

HometownGal
08-08-2006, 09:53 AM
I'm headed up to camp in about an hour or so with a couple of friends, and I'm going to spend some time focusing on Nate to see what this kid can do. I think he has a lot of potential and can do a lot of good things for the Steelers' offense.

83-Steelers-43
08-08-2006, 09:57 AM
I believe that was the second or third time Ben has brought up Washington's name in a very positive light since camp begun.

19ward86
08-08-2006, 01:26 PM
i have a lot of faith in nate, besides ward and wilson i think nate washington has the starting potential for this team. i think holmes will get greedy cause his honeys will want money. ward will retire(not too soon, still got about 6 seasons in him, not all starting) and cedrick will drift off into free agency.