Pat Freiermuth has quickly become a fan favorite in Steelers’ Nation, and for good reason. He displayed a ton of promise in his rookie season, both as a receiver and as a blocker. In the 2021 NFL Draft, he was by far my favorite selection by the Steelers as I could not help but fall in love with his college tape. I love tight ends who can do the dirty work and make explosive plays, and there are very few tight ends in the modern NFL who can do both.
After a rookie year with 60 receptions and nearly 500 receiving yards, the expectations could not be higher for the former Nittany Lion. Ben Roethlisberger, as good as he was at throwing to tight ends, was a shell of his former self in 2021, leading one to believe that Freiermuth can achieve new heights in his second season with a new quarterback.
One pundit who believes in Freiermuth’s potential is NFL.com’s Nick Shook, who recently came out with an article discussing potential first-time pro-bowlers for every AFC team. When looking at the Steelers’ roster, Shook came to the conclusion that Pat Freiermuth was the most likely player to make the Pro Bowl for the first time. Here is what he had to say about Pittsburgh’s tight end.
Najee Harris made the Pro Bowl after shouldering a heavy offensive load in his first season, so the next-best option on the Steelers’ roster is Freiermuth, who fit in seamlessly as a rookie and looks to be on a path toward becoming the franchise’s next beloved tight end. A new quarterback will make the going a little rougher, at least initially, but a reliable tight end is often a young passer’s best friend. I expect Freiermuth to see a ton of targets, no matter who plays quarterback for Pittsburgh in 2022, and to be in the conversation for the Pro Bowl, even with some stiff competition (including Mark Andrews and Travis Kelce) awaiting him.
Shook concluded by mentioning the competition he would face to make it in. Typically, there are two tight ends from each conference who make the Pro Bowl. In the AFC, Freiermuth will have to battle the likes of Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, and Darren Waller, while players such as Mike Gesicki and Dawson Knox are also on the verge of emerging into elite tight end status.
Kelce’s age is beginning to show, but based on the fact that Tyreek Hill is now out of the picture, it can only be assumed Patrick Mahomes will heavily target the one primary receiving entity he has chemistry with. Mark Andrews is also in line for a large target share, as wide receiver Marquise Brown is no longer with the team. Rashod Bateman is the presumed number one receiver in Baltimore, but after being relatively ineffective due to injuries in 2021, there are too many unknowns to put much stock into his projected status.
Waller may lose a few targets to Davante Adams, who is reuniting with college teammate Derek Carr. However, Waller’s presence across the middle of the field will still get Carr’s attention in crunch-time situations, which is why fans should expect another productive year from the Raider tight end.
As for the Steelers, it is a complete unknown. How often will Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett target tight ends? Will the additions of George Pickens and Calvin Austin III give the Steelers reason to employ four-receiver sets and use a tight end less often? How often will Pat Freiermuth be asked to assist an inexperienced offensive line and block in-line?
All of the above questions are valid concerns, but at the end of the day, Freiermuth was just touching the surface last year. Everyone could see the potential he was oozing with, as he made the most of the opportunities he was given. I, along with the vast majority of this great fan base, cannot wait to see what is in store for him in the future, and it would not shock me at all if he is voted into his first Pro Bowl this season.
What do you think of Pat Freiermuth’s year-two outlook? Do you think he can make the Pro Bowl? What is a reasonable stat line for him? Be sure to share your thoughts on this topic and all things Pittsburgh Steelers in the comment section below!