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Old 10-22-2008, 03:38 AM   #1
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Default Nate Washington may have shed reputation

Nate Washington may have shed his butterfingers reputation
He's earning Big Ben's trust as the No. 3 wide receiver
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


.One Steelers receiver ranks among the top five in the AFC in dropped passes this season, and his name is not Nate Washington.

Hines Ward is tied for fourth in the conference with four drops through six games, but the pace he's setting with his receptions has drawn little attention to those four missed opportunities.

Ward also leads the Steelers with 28 catches, with 376 yards receiving, with five touchdown grabs and more knockout blows by any NFL wide receiver. He is followed by fellow wide receiver Santonio Holmes with 22 catches for 360 yards and one touchdown.

Washington, who through his early years earned his reputation as a receiver with bad hands, is not even listed among the 26 receivers in the AFC who have at least two drops this season, according to STATS Inc.

He's catching everything thrown his way, and the way he's catching them could prompt Ben Roethlisberger to look to his No. 3 wide receiver more often.

Washington caught a picture-perfect, over-the-shoulder pass from Roethlisberger in the middle of the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown Sunday that put the Steelers in front of the Cincinnati Bengals by 14 points halfway through the fourth quarter.

It was Washington's second deep scoring pass from Roethlisberger in two games. Against Jacksonville, Washington also broke wide open to catch a 48-yarder along the sideline to put the Steelers in front, 17-14.

Washington has 15 receptions for 225 yards -- a 15-yard average -- and has the team's longest touchdown catch of the season. Last season, he had 29 receptions for 450 yards. Washington moves to the flanker position and Ward into the slot normally when the Steelers deploy three wideouts.

In the meantime, rookie Limas Sweed, who was supposed to push Washington for his No. 3 job, played in his first game Sunday and caught his first pass.

"I've never felt out of place in this offense," Washington said. "There are always opportunities there. It's just that we've been taking advantage of those opportunities lately."

He's getting more chances and dropping fewer passes. It was a little more than a year ago that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, promoted from wide receivers coach, bellowed at Washington after he dropped two passes in a preseason game against New Orleans.

"Catch the damn ball!" Arians told him, then added: "If you want to stay here."

Washington took the advice to heart, and drops have not been an issue for him since.

"You know what? Yes, I had some drops in the past," Washington said. "But the funny thing is I haven't had more drops compared to others. Things happen. My opportunities might not be there as much as somebody else's.

"At the same time, this year I've been focusing on me and the guys I play with rather than playing for everybody else. I think I've tried to come out and focus a lot more. It really never dawned on me until people started saying it. I'm not really worried about it."

Coach Mike Tomlin has taken a personal interest in Washington, who has good speed and at 6 feet 1 1/2 inches is the tallest of the three main wide receivers.

"I've been challenging him to be a factor in every football game he plays," Tomlin said. "Last year, he showed us flashes of being a guy to be reckoned with. He'd step up and have a big game and then three or four weeks later he'd step up and have another big game.

"I've been personally challenging him to step up and be a guy to be reckoned with every time he steps into a stadium on weekends, and he's embracing that. But more than that, he's doing the things throughout the week to prepare himself to do that. He's a consistent practice guy for us, and he's getting more opportunities in practice because we don't practice Hines on Wednesdays. Maybe that has something to do with his growth and development in his timing with Ben."

That growth between Washington and Roethlisberger could end this year. Washington will be an unrestricted free agent if the Steelers do not sign him to a new contract before Feb. 27.
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08296/921753-66.stm
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Old 10-22-2008, 04:04 AM   #2
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Default Re: Nate Washington may have shed reputation

Washington is showing that he can be a good receiver in the nfl he is playing alot better then last year and his catching is looking alot better if we resign him next year it will be hard for Sweed to knock him out of that no.3 position.
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Old 10-22-2008, 04:07 AM   #3
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Default Re: Nate Washington may have shed reputation

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Washington is showing that he can be a good receiver in the nfl he is playing alot better then last year .
He really has come of age and is a danger in that Ward and Santos must be blanketed by opponents. This opens him up at #3 and it looks as though Ben is getting his timing down. Coupled with new dump off passses to Heath and Moore/Parker, which, I believe will get better, the Offense is starting to hit on all its pistons.

Thanks for posting the article.
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Old 10-22-2008, 07:55 AM   #4
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Default Re: Nate Washington may have shed reputation

Maybe the coaching staff should have put some rookie pressure on him the last couple of years. Especially if this is how he responds to it.
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Old 10-22-2008, 08:36 AM   #5
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Default Re: Nate Washington may have shed reputation

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Maybe the coaching staff should have put some rookie pressure on him the last couple of years. Especially if this is how he responds to it.
I think they tried with baker, reid and gibson. Unfortunately, they never played better, so Washington was probably just in cruise control. I believe Sweed is giving him more of a fight.

And I am not worried for HInes at all. His numbers are looking pretty good imo.

4 drops out of 32 chances = 12.5%, or 87.5% success rate.
5 out of 30 catches = 16.7% TD rate.
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Old 10-22-2008, 10:11 AM   #6
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Default Re: Nate Washington may have shed reputation

Washington has truly stepped up from last season and shows not only he can play receiver, but he is a deep threat, giving us more, and better depth at Wide Receiver.
Thats not good for Sweed, Sorry.
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Old 10-22-2008, 10:31 AM   #7
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Default Re: Nate Washington may have shed reputation

nate is having a good season.. this just allows sweed to progress more simplier than trying to progress while under much pressure
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Old 10-22-2008, 10:33 AM   #8
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Default Re: Nate Washington may have shed reputation

Isn't that the story of our WR's? Butterfingers finally figures it out, remembers how to catch ball, Ben loves him. It's pretty funny actually, Remember when Holmes was butterfingers? It's just the natural cycle of things. Sweed will surely be the next Steeler with fingers of butter. It's like a rite of passage.
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Old 10-22-2008, 02:10 PM   #9
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Default Re: Nate Washington may have shed reputation

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Isn't that the story of our WR's? Butterfingers finally figures it out, remembers how to catch ball, Ben loves him. It's pretty funny actually, Remember when Holmes was butterfingers? It's just the natural cycle of things. Sweed will surely be the next Steeler with fingers of butter. It's like a rite of passage.
haha....I'd have some butterfingers too if I had to play for a team that has featured Stallworth, Swann, Lipps and Ward before me.
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Old 10-22-2008, 02:35 PM   #10
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Default Re: Nate Washington may have shed reputation

Nate is truly coming into his own and seems to have a lot more confidence in himself this season. He's running nice routes, is getting open more often and seems to have allowed the butter to evaporate off his fingers. I've always liked this kid and strongly feel he is and will continue to be a tremendous asset to the Steelers O.
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