Steelers Sign Veteran Cornerback Donald Washington

It is not unusual for the Steelers, or any NFL team, to make a couple of three roster moves following a rookie minicamp. An unsigned player on a tryout contract might catch a coach’s eye, as Terence Garvin did in 2013, or an undrafted rookie free agent blows his chance by showing up out of shape. So its nothing out of the ordinary to see the Steelers sign four players following their rookie minicamp.

It is who the Steelers signed that should turn some heads….

  • But quartet of new Steelers signings brought a surprise with it.

Donald Washington, unlike backs Cameron Stingily and Brandon Brown-Dukes, along with wide receiver Marcus Tucker, is a veteran NFL cornerback….

That’s no misprint.

The Steelers website confirms the team signed “four try out players” from the rookie mini camp, but Donald Washington is no rookie.

The Kansas City Cheifs drafted Donald Washington in the 4th round of the 2009 NFL Draft as a safety. Per Pro Football Reference, Donald Washington saw action in 32 games for the Chiefs, and even made 5 starts from 2009 to 2011.

  • After that, Washington disappeared from football for two years, before resurfacing in the CFL in 2014 and 2015.

Washington switched to cornerback and played the 2014 CFL season for the Toronto Argonauts where he appeared in 3 games and made 14 defensive tackles and one special teams tackle. The Argonauts cut Washington before the 2015 season, but the Hamilton Tiger-Cats signed him where he made 13 defensive tackles, 2 special teams tackles and recorded one sack.

Washington = Wired Signing for Steelers

At the recent NFL owners meeting, Mike Tomlin assured reporters that the Steelers had no plans to sign a veteran cornerback, however, Tomlin is wont to promise to “Leave no lose stone unturned” when it comes to finding talent that can help the Steelers.

  • The Steelers signing Donald Washington certainly qualifies as “found beneath a loose stone” discovery.

Players do sometimes disappear and then reappear. Mark Stock, a member of the 1989 Steelers draft class, and the guy who dropped a would-be late 4th quarter third down conversion pass from Bubby Brister in the 89 Steelers playoff loss to Denver, was out of football from 1990 to 1992, reappearing with the Redskins in 1993, disappearing for two more seasons and then reappearing in 1996 at as a 30 year old kick returner with the Colts.

In all fairness, Kevin Colbert’s skill at making astute “street free agent” signings and/or waiver wire pickups has been incredible.

As Steel Curtain Rising has previously recounted (at least twice), one of Colbert’s first moves upon arriving in Pittsburgh in 2000 was to sign former Detroit Lions offensive tackle Larry Tharpe, who’d sat out football in 1999.

No one will confuse Tharpe with Max Starks, let alone Larry Brown, but he did start 5 games in 2000, and was better than either of the Steelers 1999 starting right tackles Chris Conrad or Anthony Brown.

  • Perhaps Donald Washington is 2016’s Larry Tharpe.

Or maybe there’s a Todd Haley connection. Todd Haley drafted Washington and Washington left the NFL after 2011, at the same time Todd Haley joined the Steelers. Perhaps the two men have a bond, and Haley was able to get Washington a try out.

  • Or maybe Donald Washington just owes Haley money…..

Washington’s past performance suggests he’s got a greater chance of getting cut after minicamp than he does getting reps late in the 4th quarter of the Steelers first preseason game, but stranger things have happened….

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