PITTSBURGH — Steelers minicamp came to a close on Thursday, but that doesn’t mean the day itself wasn’t quite eventful. With training camp coming up in a month, who finished the first part of the offseason program with a strong day?
Darnell Washington … Again
I usually want to highlight someone else here, but listen, Wednesday’s star was Darnell Washington, and Thursday’s star was, you guessed it, Darnell Washington. No, it’s not a bad thing. In fact, it seems to show that he is becoming more comfortable with plays and other things on the field. Everyone is impressed with him, and several players confirmed that he scored three touchdowns on Thursday.
Cory Trice and the secondary see what Washington can do up close. The giant tight end is turning heads around the building, including his fellow rookies.
“Man, I enjoy the opportunity to go up against any of those guys out there,” Trice said. “But he’s a huge guy. That guy can move and he’s strong. At the end of the day, going up against him is a big job.”
Mitch Trubisky is really seeing him grow over the last few weeks. After also throwing to him, Trubisky is growing the comfort level with Washington at Steelers minicamp and what he can do. From there, Washington will have to work on polishing his game.
“You see him really make some plays,” Trubisky said. “He’s a big target, can run a lot of routes for his size, and as a quarterback you love knowing you have a mismatch guy like that. He’ll learn the playbook and stuff, but he’s looked really good.’
If you ask Washington, his minicamp performance is only a B- at best. So there is room for him to grow. But make no mistake, Washington is really starting to cook out there. When will the pillows come on? I can’t wait to see his blocking up close.
Patrick Peterson, Mentor
When it comes to offseason additions, Patrick Peterson was safe the biggest name. But while his game on the field has evolved into a different realm than it used to be, so has his role off the field. Peterson will now be asked to mentor two young cornerbacks, Cory Trice and Joey Porter Jr. But if you ask one of those guys, Peterson is like an encyclopedia.
“If you have a question, he’s always open to show me what to do or answer it,” Porter Jr. said. “
For a group of rookie cornerbacks who still have so much to learn, having a guy like Peterson around is a huge advantage for them. They need to learn from the best, and Peterson is one of the best of the generation and a future Hall of Famer. So while he’s versatile and has a lot of fun doing new things, Peterson also has so much value off the court.
Conditioning for Latrobe
If you’re a young player heading out before the end of minicamp, you better listen to Mike Tomlin before you go. With their eyes on Latrobe, Tomlin emphasized conditioning his group as he always does. Why? Because that conditioning allows those guys to take more reps when the opportunity presents itself. That’s the exact way Jaylen Warren pounced on his opportunity during last year’s training camp with some injuries at the running back position.
Either way, those guys will have a fitness test in addition to getting in pads for the first time when Latrobe comes around. The better conditioned they are at that stage of the game, the better opportunity they have to push for some significant playing time.
Trice feels right
Cory Trice has looked solid in his limited NFL practices thus far. But one thing really makes him better than he did his last season at Purdue. Coming off a torn ACL, Trice wore a bulky knee brace that hampered his ability to switch and use his fluidity. To me, he described himself as ‘clumsy’ at times during that season as a result of that knee injury and the brace. That could be what contributed to some teams being concerned.
However, he feels he is more fluid than ever and has exceptional quickness for his size. Trice thinks he’ll come back better than ever, and now that it’s year 2 of the knee injury, he’s hitting his stride right out of the gate.
Speaking of mentors, I have to respect Dan Moore for taking Broderick Jones under his wing. The left tackle is very real and rages on, but Moore has been cordial with Jones and is mentoring him. In some ways, Jones is Moore’s protege. For someone who could take his job, that says a lot about the type of attitude and mentality that Moore has toward this whole situation.
“That’s the type of person I strive to be, at the end of the day the goal is to be a good teammate,” Moore said. “That’s what I want guys to say about me. That’s what I want my reputation and legacy to leave as a great teammate.”
With Jones already thanking Moore for showing him technique, working in the film room with him and more, those are all the things you want to hear if you’re a Steeler. Moore’s future with the team is at least as swing tackle, but he could also get an opportunity to compete at right tackle in the future.