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Old 09-10-2006, 12:39 PM
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Default Steelers' Washington showing NFL the man from Tiffin belongs

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.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06253/720600-66.stm
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Old 03-02-2007, 03:02 PM
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First TD in the NFL regular season for 2006. Not bad. He had a mediocre year but I feel that he will be excellent if Pittsburgh gives him a chance and holds onto him for a few years.
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Old 10-19-2007, 12:23 PM
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FYI - Tiffin is very close to Ben Roethlisberger's hometown of Findlay.
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Old 08-02-2008, 03:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CCN View Post
FYI - Tiffin is very close to Ben Roethlisberger's hometown of Findlay.
Really? Didn't know that.
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