NASHVILLE, Tenn. —
The “C” that will be on his jersey may be just one indicator.
Tennessee visits Pittsburgh (noon, CT, Sunday) in the season opener for both teams.
The rivalry between the Titans/Oilers franchise and the Steelers is nothing new for Washington, who made Pittsburgh’s roster in 2005 as an undrafted rookie and contributed to two Super Bowl titles before signing with Tennessee in 2009. Washington has played in this game each year since 2008 and has looked forward to every matchup against his former teammates.
“Anytime I have the opportunity to go back up there and play against those guys, it’s special,” Washington said. “That was a place that bred me, that gave me my opportunity. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Pittsburgh so I’m going to be happy and very jubilant to go up there and play against those guys and show them how far I’ve come and show them the progress that I’ve made.”
Since 2009, Washington leads the Titans in receptions (209), yards (3,025) and TD catches (23), basically doubling the 104 catches for 1,705 yards and 12 TDs he had with the Steelers. He also has a streak of 78 games (64 with Tennessee) in a row with at least one reception.
|Nate Washington has 209 catches since joining the Titans in 2009 and a 78-game streak with at least one reception that dates back to his time in Pittsburgh with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.|
Washington is leading beyond the stat sheet. He and Titans free agent addition
Washington was instrumental throughout the Titans’ offseason program in setting the pace for the group that includes
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who consistently has spoken highly of Washington over the years, said during Wednesday’s conference call that the receiver has “redeemable qualities.”
“He’s got a great spirit,” Tomlin said. “He likes to work. You know, that’s a nice recipe for longevity.”
Tomlin said he’s been impressed with Jake Locker’s mobility and accuracy on the move, as well as the explosive threat that
“All of those guys are capable and NFL players, guys like Nate Washington that we are familiar with that are fun to watch,” Tomlin said. “Nate just from a spectator standpoint, to see the growth and development that he has had over the years and the type of career that he has put together,” has been good.
Although the teams are no longer members of the AFC Central and have been in different divisions since 2002, they’ve met 75 times (71 during the regular season, four in the playoffs) since 1970.
This will be the sixth straight year in which the teams have collided, and Washington said he remembers the first game in that span as vividly as last year’s Titans win on a field goal by
“I remember one game, I think my first game was the most memorable was when we came here when I was still in Pittsburgh and (Tennessee) went 13-3 (including a 31-14 win against the Steelers) because … I was sitting at home watching the Tennessee and the Baltimore game and I was just hoping Baltimore would win because (if the Steelers played the Titans again in the playoffs) I knew we weren’t going to be able to beat them, so they beat up on us pretty good but we went on to win the Super Bowl.”
Pittsburgh also edged Tennessee 13-10 in overtime to open the 2009 season and won 19-11 in September 2010. The Steelers beat the Titans 38-17 in Pittsburgh in 2011, which was avenged last season.
Washington said he sees a “different attitude” in the Titans’ locker room that he thinks will benefit Tennessee this year, especially in hostile environments on the road.
“A lot of guys have attitude behind them right now. A lot of guys are playing with a chip on their shoulder,” Washington said. “A lot of guys are playing with an old resilient attitude right now so I’m just happy. I’m happy about the progress that we made with our attitudes and the things that we’re doing better when it comes to preparing mentally for these types of games. It’s definitely going to be a dog fight, so we’re going to have to make sure we come in and sacrifice just as much as they are.”