There are many things the Pittsburgh Steelers liked in Pat Freiermuth that led to their decision to draft the Penn State tight end in the second round earlier this year. He has prototypical size for the position, for one thing. He is capable of being a complete player, with both catching and blocking ability. And he puts points on the board in the red zone.
You have probably heard the numbers by now, regarding his scoring at the college level, and how he’s never dropped a pass in the red zone. He continued that streak on Saturday night working with Ben Roethlisberger and the first-team offense, which yielded two touchdowns, and nearly three, had Mason Rudolph been able to make a better throw under pressure at the end of the first half. So what’s the key to his success?
“I like scoring touchdowns”, he told reporters after the game. “I like celebrating with the fans. I like celebrating with my teammates. I just think, there’s so much detail down there, and I’m such a detail-oriented guy, that maybe some person that’s great in the open field lacks that kind of detail, because it feels smaller. I understand coverage more down there and understand what I need to do to get open and score a touchdown”.
It helps to have talent. It also helps to be detail-oriented, and that is often what separates the good players from the great. Freiermuth has clearly had success in the red zone. The Steelers drafted him in large part because they believe that he can be a weapon there. The early returns are good.
Pittsburgh’s decision to draft him in the second round was questioned based on relative positional value, but the reality is that the team has not addressed the tight end spot in the draft in meaningful fashion in over a decade, so one might say it was due.
He comes in while Eric Ebron, their top tight end, is playing out the back half of a two-year contract, certainly with no guarantees that he continues with the Steelers beyond this season. They are also hoping to continue to develop Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader, two other young tight ends on the roster.
But Freiermuth certainly looks like the face of the position going forward. He might not receive the full Heath Miller treatment, as player who remains one of the most beloved in recent team history, but you’re certainly going to hear some HEEEAAATH chants.