The Pittsburgh Steelers were hoping to add a nice one-two tight end punch to their offense last year when they signed veteran free agent Eric Ebron to a two-year contract. Instead, what they really got was a receiving tight end and a veteran in Vance McDonald who gave himself over to the blocking part of the game.
With McDonald retiring this offseason, the team replaced him with Pat Freiermuth, a second-round pick out of Penn State, who is capable of being that complementary weapon alongside Ebron, and who should eventually take over top billing. Ebron talked to reporters after practice about what he’s seeing from the young tight end.
“He’s just a smooth playmaker. He’s silky smooth. He doesn’t look like he’s trying too hard”, he told reporters about watching him practice. “He’s capable of a lot. It’s been fun for the couple days that I’ve been with him, just feeling him out. He asks a lot of questions, which is good. He’s really easy to talk to, which is cool. I look forward to seeing him grow in this league. It’s gonna be fun to watch him”.
Freiermuth profiles himself as a complete tight end who is very capable of delivering in the passing game, but who also embraces the physical component of the position in terms of executing his blocking assignments. While he has room to grow in both phases, he’s probably a bit more ready as a receiver.
During his three-year college career, spanning 29 games, he caught 92 passes for 1185 yards with 16 touchdowns. He was limited to just four games last season, but caught 23 passes for 310 yards in that span.
Of course, now he’s playing at a completely different level of the game, and that’s going to take some adjustments. And it will take time before we cant really see what he looks like in certain phases, because there’s only so much you can determine in a practice setting without pads.
“It’s hard to dictate what everyone looks like in shorts and helmets, because everybody looks good, but I’m excited to see him grow as a tight end”, Ebron said of Freiermuth. “It’s a lot of information we’re throwing at him, it’s a lot of different things he needs to know at this position, so I’m just looking forward to seeing him grow”.
Ebron himself is a former first-round pick entering his eighth season. He has recorded 339 career receptions for 3753 yards and 32 touchdowns. In his first season with the Steelers in 2020, he caught 56 passes for 558 yards and five scores.
The question is, will this be his final season in Pittsburgh? This is his final year under contract, but they renegotiated his deal to add void years in order to create some salary cap space. Freiermuth is obviously their future, so where does he fit in? He’s still just 28 years old.