Steelers’ James Washington embraces Hines Ward approach to blocking | TribLIVE.com
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Chris Adamski

It was not a case, James Washington said Wednesday, of spotting Nik Needham from afar Monday night and lining him up in anticipation of a highlight-reel pancake.

“Honestly, I was just in the moment,” the Pittsburgh Steelers receiver said. “I just saw an opportunity, and I hit him.”

Washington did — and it endeared him to Steelers fans and elicited comparisons to franchise icon Hines Ward.

Washington’s block of Miami Dolphins cornerback Needham during the final minute of the first half of Monday’s win gave Diontae Johnson a clear path to the end zone. Washington’s effort wasn’t the play of the game, but it was one of the moments fans and observers were talking about after the Steelers’ 27-14 victory.

Washington also delivered a “pancake” block near the goal line during James Conner’s 9-yard touchdown run in the second half.

“It’s part of the game. Somebody’s got to do it,” Washington said of blocking downfield. “I don’t mind it at all. I feel like it’s one of the better parts of my game, just being physical.”

It’s a part Washington has shown at times in the past but an aspect of his skillset he didn’t get as many opportunities to show in college while winning the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver.

But physicality and blocking are traits Washington is embracing as he searches for his niche in the Steelers’ wide receivers corps.

“I guess at Oklahoma State, I never really did that just because I was catching a lot,” Washington said. “But not being a No. 1 guy, you’ve got to find something else to help separate you and add value to yourself for this team. So I feel like blocking, getting guys downfield, Coach always talks about us establishing the run. So blocking on the perimeter is key for us to have that.”

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