It’s a lot easier to talk up a rookie when he makes some big plays and scores some points, and that’s what Pittsburgh Steelers second-round draft pick Pat Freiermuth did in the team’s last game. The Penn State tight end caught two touchdowns from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in their last outing, and he’s been a topic of conversation since.
Both of those touchdowns occurred in the red zone, where Freiermuth has forged a reputation of reliability. While Pro Football Focus credits him with zero drops in the red zone throughout his college career, he did allow after the game on Saturday that he felt there were one or two that he should have caught. But he also spoke about why he feels he is strong in the red zone, and emphasized his love of detail work (and a love of scoring touchdowns).
Naturally, his coaches see the same things we do, and offensive coordinator Matt Canada talked about what he has seen from his rookie tight end. “I think he’s got a real drive to be great”, he said after practice today. “He’s working on craft and obviously, you saw some of that. Inches will make you a star in this game, wherever the ball is placed, and obviously, Ben’s so good at that”.
Both Roethlisberger and Freiermuth talked after the last preseason game about their work together in the red zone and in finding each other’s catch radius, with the quarterback throwing intentionally bad balls to ‘expand the strike zone’, as it were. That came in handy during the game, as Freiermuth made some nice adjustments to secure his scores.
“The time that they’ve put in together, you saw some of that last week”, Canada said. “There’s a whole lot more to do and a whole lot more growth to occur, but I think Pat’s openness and willingness to do that is impressive and certainly we’re using that to our advantage”.
There isn’t a team in the league who would say no to a red-zone threat, and Freiermuth is shaping up to be one. Of course, he has yet to even play a meaningful snap in his career, but the rapport that he is forging with Roethlisberger—and hopefully the other quarterbacks—will serve him well.
The hope is also for Canada’s play-calling to get more players involved for the betterment of the offense as a whole. With two talented tight ends, the other being Eric Ebron, there is no reason the offense shouldn’t be able to employ more two-tight end sets in situations where it would be advantageous.