While not an area native, new Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth does have the local connection in being a Penn State alumnus. That’s not quite the same thing as playing at Pitt, where the teams literally share the same facilities. But there would be some level of familiarity in playing in the same state and being one of the local schools.
Where he played, I wouldn’t think, made much difference in how much the Steelers liked Freiermuth. He earned that status on his own. And while I think there is some innate affinity for the Steelers you get playing from a local school, it’s fair to say that Pittsburgh earned the prospect’s regards through the draft process as well.
“I’m really excited,” he told reporters during his conference call, about being selected by the Steelers. “Obviously since Pro Day, [tight ends] coach Alfredo [Roberts] and [head coach Mike] Tomlin and [offensive coordinator Matt] Canada were there. I hit it off with them since day one. I kind of felt like if I was there at 55 that they might draft me.”
We have spent time during the pre-draft process talking about the level of interest and enthusiasm for Freiermuth there seemed to be from the Steelers camp. There were just a lot of dots to connect there, and it’s no surprise that he would end up here.
But the courting stage is in the rearview mirror, and what’s ahead is the work. And part of putting in work is motivation, so it always helps when you have the opportunity to work for an organization that you want to represent.
“I’m just excited to be a Pittsburgh Steeler,” he would say later in his conference call. “I’m excited where I’m at. I’m excited the Steelers gave me an opportunity, and I can promise you and the rest of Steeler Nation that I’m going to make the most of it. They’re going to get a guy that comes in every single day and works his tail off. So, I’m excited for the opportunity. This is meant to be.”
Granted, it’s generally pretty easy to be excited about any team that is willing to draft you and sign you to a multi-million deal, but I do think there are times that you can see past the boilerplate ‘excitement’ speeches that permeate these conference calls when you’re hearing somebody who genuinely means it.
It’s been long established that the Steelers value what they call “football players.” Guys who simply play the game the right way regardless of position, and do it with a genuine love and conviction for the game, and within the team concept. There’s no doubt that Freiermuth checked that box for them this draft process.