"I've been waking up these past couple nights in the middle of the night thinking of rehabbing some in the middle of my sleep," Washington said.
"It's definitely something I've been trying to pry into myself that it's a 16-week season. But in all honesty, this game does mean a lot to me. It means a whole lot, whole lot to me to go out and play against these guys. I know the coaching staff is going to take precautions. ... Hopefully, they give me the go ahead."
All Titans coach Jeff Fisher would say Tuesday is no one has been ruled out against Pittsburgh. Washington was limited in his first practice since he dropped to the ground on a long pass route, but did run a few routes during team drills, work that Fisher called encouraging.
Both Washington and the Titans have worked aggressively to help the receiver heal his hamstring. Washington credited the trainers with giving him leeway to perform what he called "nice, hard rehab."
The Titans would love to have the 6-foot-1, 185-pound receiver on the field in Pittsburgh. He was their top free agency signing with a six-year, $27 million deal that included $9 million in guaranteed money, and Washington was the first of many moves designed to improve a passing offense ranked 27th in the NFL in 2008.
Washington caught 104 passes for 1,705 yards and 12 touchdowns during four seasons in Pittsburgh after the Steelers brought him in as an undrafted free agent out of Tiffin. He had his best season in 2008 with 40 receptions and 631 yards receiving with three TDs behind Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called Washington a spark plug for a locker room through both his play and personality.
"They got a great player in Nate. He's starter capable. He's been given opportunities in the past few years to play in that role here, and he's always delivered for us. I'd imagine he's going to do the same thing for those guys," Tomlin said.
If Washington can't start, then rookie Kenny Britt, the No. 30 draft pick overall out of Rutgers, would start the first NFL regular-season game of his career opposite veteran Justin Gage. Washington has been busy sharing any tidbits and scouting information with his new teammates.
"He's taking over the coaching job telling each personality and what they like to do in certain zone coverages," Britt said.
"We certainly have picked his brain about the kind of coverages and things they like to do and personnel things," QB Kerry Collins said. "He's been a good resource this week."
But Washington would rather help the Titans by being on the field. He would only admit he feels he's better than 80 percent and didn't even think about his hamstring during practice. The receiver who used to sit in the Steelers' locker room last season and envision his first game coming out of the visitors' side just wants to play.
"I don't care how many plays they give me, just to be out there with those guys that night is going to mean a lot to me," he said. "It's a 16-week season. Unfortunately this type of injury I guess you really don't want to come out and be timid about anything. ... I feel good, but it's still at their discretion. I'm not worried about anything else right now."