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).