The Pittsburgh Steelers first regular season depth chart dropped a couple days ago. There was plenty of interesting things listed within it, but one thing in particular caught my eye. Both Eric Ebron and rookie Pat Freiermuth were listed as the number one tight end. While there are a number of formations that utilize a number tight ends in football, in today’s pass-heavy game you would rarely have multiple tight ends on the field in every situation. Below are some of the possibilities of how the Steelers may want to utilize two starting tight ends.
Lots of ‘12’ Personnel
The first thing we’ll look at is the use of ‘12’ personnel. This grouping means the offense has one running back on the field and two tight ends. This grouping in today’s game is one you typically see in short yardage formations, or as a change of pace set. You would rarely see two tight ends with their hands in the ground on first/second/third and ten. But you may see a tight end out wide (more like a receiver) while the other would line up in a traditional tight end alignment.
The Steelers may opt to run Ebron and Freiermuth as big bodied mismatches for defense and utilizing two of these guys at once could be favorable for the offense.
The second option (but probably least likely) is the Steelers rotating their tight ends, either every play, every series, or every quarter. This way the Steelers can minimize either tight ends snaps, and keep them as fresh as possible all season long. Veteran Eric Ebron could use less wear and tear on his body, and Pat Freiermuth may need to work his way into being an every snap NFL’er. For a group featuring a guy who's career is on the back nine and a guy who is just a puppy, splitting time may prove favorable for either.
Freiermuth is Set to Takeover as a Rookie
Perhaps the Steelers plan is to transition the tight end position to Pat Freiermuth, while at the same time they view Eric Ebron as still being a top tight end. The goal here is to utilize Ebron for his strengths while getting Pat Freiermuth more and more involved In the offense. Freiemuth has stepped into the NFL and wowed people in training camp and the preseason. The Steelers coaches and quarterback have spoken very highly about the rookie and could very well envision him having a very productive first year. The Steelers can still use Ebron in this scenario, but placing the rookie above the eighth-year player before Week 1 could be viewed as a slap in the face.
Combination of the Three
Lastly, maybe the Steelers will do all three of the previously mentioned theories. They could run tons of 12 personnel, they could rotate Ebron and Freiermuth for single tight end sets, and they could give Freiermuth more and more playing time as the year goes on. In all honesty, I believe this will be the exact route this team goes. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada loves using multiple tight end sets, and Freiermuth has already proved to have an extremely high ceiling in this league. At the end of the day, the tight end group will be one of the most game changing positions in this offense.
But what do you think? How do you expect the Steelers to play both Eric Ebron and Pat Freiermuth? Who would be the lone starter by Week 18? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.