Washington not ready to give up position yet
By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer
dlolley@observer-reporter.com


Steelers wide receiver Nate Washington had 29 receptions for 450 yards and five touchdowns last season. He also had a number of drops, which was partially a reason why the Steelers drafted Limas Sweed in the second round of this year’s draft.

PITTSBURGH - Nate Washington is used to being doubted.

When you come to the NFL from tiny Tiffin University as an undrafted player, people are always going to question whether or not you belong.

That's why Washington never pouted or lost any sleep when the Steelers selected wide receiver Limas Sweed in the second round of this year's draft.

While many assumed Sweed, a talented 6-4, 220-pounder from Texas, would push Washington down the depth chart, he hasn't. Witha couple of weeks remaining before the Steelers open the regular season Sept. 7 against HoustonWashington is holding strong.

"I don't plan on moving any time soon," said Washington of his role as the Steelers' third receiver behind starters Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes. "I'm not trying to take any steps backward. I'm moving forward."

Not that Washington doesn't understand why the Steelers drafted Sweed.

The 6-1, 185-pound Washington is one of several Steelers veterans who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2008 season.

Washington said his agent and the Steelers have had what he termed "minor, real minor," talks about a contract extension, but are nowhere near an agreement. He signed the Steelers' one-year tender offer as a restricted free agent this year

and will make $1.4 million.

Washington finished fourth on the team in receptions last year behind Ward, Holmes and tight end Heath Miller, catching 29 passes for 450 yards and five touchdowns. He appeared in all 16 games, making four starts.

But Washington was also credited with five dropped passes last year, a number that's frustrated head coach Mike Tomlin, who said last year during training camp, "I love Nate Washington ... but he needs to be better focused."

"Any drop is bad," admitted Washington. "But when you don't get all that many passes thrown your way, it's magnified."

That's why Washington is looking at 2008 as his breakout year - even if it is as a third receiver.

"It's a real big year," Washington said. "It's just a big year to step up and show that I'm really supposed to be here. I've been doubted for so long and criticized for so long that it's a motivation point for me. It's not about a contract or anything like that. If I get paid, then I'm blessed to get paid. I'm not too much worried about the money. I'm just trying to be a guy who's accountable on this team."

Washington isn't in any hurry for this season to end.

The Steelers gave him his shot in the NFL and he's very close to a number of players in the locker room. In fact, when running back Willie Parker made his first Pro Bowl trip in 2006, he took Washington along.

"These guys on this team are great," Washington said. "If it was just a thing where you're just playing football and you weren't getting paid, I wouldn't trade this team for the world. At the same time, it's our living and you have to eat.

"It's a situation where it's going to be tough. But I'm not worried about that right now. I love these guys on this team, this coaching staff and this organization. I'm enjoying my time here. If it has to change, it has to change. I wouldn't like it to, but it's the business side of it. I'm looking forward to a big year, not just personally, but with these guys."