When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected tight end Pat Freiermuth in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, there was a mixed reaction from the fan base. Many were expecting the team to take a center with their second selection, and others just didn’t know much about this kid from Penn State who has an odd last name.
Either way, Freiermuth proved to be a valuable asset to the offense in 2021, especially when Eric Ebron was lost for the season with a knee injury. The experience Freiermuth was able to gather during his rookie campaign was extremely valuable. Now, with a year under his belt, Freiermuth approaches his first offseason as a professional. When looking back at his first season, he sees a lot which went right, and plenty which went wrong.
“It was definitely tough learning at first,” Freiermuth told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “I think the OTA period really helped, just the walkthroughs and stuff and extra reps before camp. Coming from college, most colleges don’t even huddle and they use one word kind of lingos and everyone kind of knows what to do on those plays. Being in the huddle and hearing Ben [Roethlisberger] say the plays it’s kind of an adjustment with that part. We were comfortable with each other at a certain point in the season. There were some challenges, but we worked through them throughout the year.”
There will be no Roethlisberger moving forward since the quarterback called it a career after 18 seasons with the team, but Freiermuth sees his upcoming sophomore season as a chance to improve on the skills which will help him become a better all-around tight end.
“I know what to work on and know what to get better at on and off the field, as a leader and stuff like that.” Freiermuth added. “I’m excited to know specifically what to work at and specifically what I need to do to get better. I’m excited to attack that the best I can.”
So, what aspects of his game is Freiermuth working on this offseason?
“I need to improve in my in-line blocking,” said Freiermuth. “I think I’m a pretty good blocker out in space. I need to be able to continue to have the coaches have trust in me and have confidence and be able to move defensive ends in the run game and be that point of attack blocker. I think point of attack blocking, being able to move people, I think that my upper body strength, core strength, my footwork, strike, everything. I’m confident that I will be able to do it next year.”
Anyone who watched the Steelers in 2021 would have been able to tell you the one aspect of Freiermuth’s game which needed the most work was his ability to block. But don’t take this as the rest of his game being polished and perfect. The second year tight end sees plenty of work to be done as a pass catcher.
“I’ll just get better at my routes,” said Freiermuth. “You can always work at that level and run after. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always talks about that. Just getting more comfortable with that.
“I think with the year I had teams are going to watch the short, intermediate routes with me, those flat balls and curls and stuff like that. I definitely have to get a little more comfortable and be asked to run downfield more and run those deeper routes. I think this offseason is big for me being able to showcase that I can do that and work on doing that.”
This is typically when the conversation would trend in the direction of the Steelers not throwing the ball down the middle of the field, but with Roethlisberger out and a new quarterback, whoever that may be, in next season it is worth taking a wait-and-see approach to what the offense/passing attack will resemble in 2022.
One thing is for certain, the Steelers found an extremely talented tight end in Freiermuth, and one which hasn’t been seen in black and gold since Eric Green in the 90s. Sure, Heath Miller was excellent, and a fan favorite, but Freiermuth’s athleticism is what separates him from Miller. Miller was the better blocker, but Freiermuth has the ability to change the way a defense defends the Steelers’ offense.
Will Freiermuth have a sophomore jump, or a sophomore slump? If addressing areas which need to be worked is any indication of eventual improvement, I think the former Nittany Lion is on the right path.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the start of the new league year, and the 2022 NFL Draft.