It’s been some time since the Pittsburgh Steelers have last had the sort of pedigree that they currently have in their tight end room. Eric Ebron is a carryover from last season, a former first-round draft pick whom they signed in free agency. To the room was added Pat Freiermuth, a rookie second-round draft pick.
(Yes, Vance McDonald was a second-round pick, too. I know. They were both drafted 55th overall.)
With that sort of pedigree in the room, it’s no surprise that much is being expected of them this year, not just from their coaches, but from themselves. Even Ebron has acknowledged his need to improve as a blocker. “We don’t draft first-round picks for us to not block”, he told reporters yesterday.
Adrian Klemm installed a new philosophy into the offensive line room when he was promoted to the position coach there. Alfredo Roberts is trying to do the same thing in the tight end room after coming aboard this season. He even came up with a name for the group, as Ebron confirmed.
“Badasses”, he said, before censoring himself. “Or Bad Donkeys. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry”. And who came up with it? “That’s ‘Fredo, but I told him it was cool, because it’s technically my room, so…”.
(You either get Ebron’s sense of humor or you don’t. Everything he says is with a smile.)
The Steelers need more from their tight ends this year, and a more well-rounded effort, as well, including in the blocking department. They haven’t had plus blocking from the position since McDonald’s first couple of seasons here before injuries took their toll on him. But this group knows what the deal is.
“Tight ends, we should be badasses”, Ebron said. “We should be able to block badass, we should be able to run badass routes, and we should be able to score on anybody in a badass way. That’s the mantra that we’re gonna take this year, and that’s the mantra we’re gonna take for our room”.
Ebron has always been a receiver first, since before he was drafted. I think it was a bit of a shock to the system last year when he got to Pittsburgh and it dawned on him how much he was going to be expected to block.
But Freiermuth is going to take over a lot of the blocking assignments, and he’s going to have to be on an accelerated learning curve, as well. No doubt, there is a lot of talent in that room, but also a lot of maturation that has to take place.
That’s always true with a rookie in the room, and Ebron understands the jump. “Blocking at the college level, it’s not the same”, he said, regarding his young teammate. “So he’s definitely gonna continue to get better and grow”.
That is why they drafted him. Time will tell just what he can develop into. But for now, he’s one part of the Badasses. Or the Bad Donkeys. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.