By Teresa Varley
Nate Washington knows how to make an impression. He did so when he came in as a rookie free agent last year, making the team's practice squad from Tiffin University.
He showed enough progress to be placed on the active roster, and against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game made a key third-down reception for his first catch of the season. He also turned defender in that game, knocking down a potential interception.
During training camp it became obvious fast that Washington would be an impact player this year.
But, it was against the Miami Dolphins in the season-opener that he made a huge impression on the Steelers faithful. Washington scored the Steelers first touchdown reception of the season, and the first of his career, when he pulled in a 27-yard strike from Charlie Batch.
"It meant a lot to me," said Washington of the touchdown reception. "I was really happy to be able to go out there and score a touchdown. For them to have confidence in me coming in and for me to make plays for them, it worked out for me."
After scoring the touchdown Washington did what is normal, spiked the football. He didn't think to keep the ball, something that he could hold onto as a memento. But others did. The ball was put aside for him, and now he plans on having it painted with the information from the catch and the game.
"I was so excited I didn't know how to celebrate or what to do so I ended up spiking it," said Washington. "When I got to the sideline I thought about it. That is one I am definitely going to keep."
And while he will keep it and have a special place for, he won't get too caught up in the one touchdown. He knows he has a ways to go.
"I am not in a position yet to relax," said Washington. "I have a lot of things to still prove, not only to myself but to the rest of the guys out there and the fans. That's what I am trying to do right now, prove myself as a guy they can count on."
After the departure of Antwaan Randle El this off-season, the Steelers drafted two wide receivers, Santonio Holmes in the first round and Willie Reid in the third round. Washington knew there were those that doubted if he could step in and help with the departure of Randle El, but he proved them wrong.
"With a guy like Randle El leaving last year and the contribution he had to the team, people wondered," said Washington. "Me being a guy that didn't come from a Division-1 school and not much known about me, I am sure there were a lot of things going through people's heads. Hopefully I can fill that void."
One thing that Washington brings to the table that Randle El did as well is speed and it helps to balance the team's offensive attack.
"I can stretch the field a little bit," said Washington. "We have a great corps of guys. We rely on each other. It's like a brotherhood out there. If someone goes down, we keep rolling. We all bring different things to the group."