It’s hard to truly pinpoint the last time a Steelers’ rookie tight end has this much hype and anticipation surrounding his NFL debut that exists for current Steelers’ rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth.
You’d probably have to go back to the days of Heath Miller — a first-round draft pick out of Virginia in 2005 — to find the last time there was this much buzz around a rookie tight end.
Jesse James certainly didn’t have this much buzz, and it’s safe to say neither did guys like Rob Blanchflower, David Paulson, Matt Spaeth, Charles Davis and Zach Gentry garnered that much buzz.
Freiermuth though, thanks to his two-touchdown performance against the Detroit Lions in the preseason at Heinz Field, has Steelers fans and one important member of the Steelers’ offense eyeing big things for the Penn State product in 2021.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday ahead of the Week 1 opener on the road against the Buffalo Bills, Ben Roethlisberger said he has high expectations for the rookie tight end and addressed just how quickly the pairing has developed chemistry after Freiermuth was selected 55th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
“Real quick. He’s shown some really good things in camp and in the preseason,” Roethlisberger said to reporters Wednesday. “But once again, that’s not the regular season. It doesn’t count yet. I told him that after he caught his first touchdown that I threw to him. I said, ‘Congratulations, it doesn’t count yet.’ I hope he and I just continue to develop that relationship with another year here. We’ll see. This team has always been tight end driven. High expectations for tight ends, and so we expect that from him as well.”
No pressure, Pat.
In all seriousness, what Roethlisberger said Wednesday is no different from what he’s said in the past about young tight ends entering the league, or new faces at the position acquired via trade or free agency.
Roethlisberger knows just how important Freiermuth will be to the success of the Steelers’ offense in 2021, both on the ground and through the air, especially in the red zone. Freiermuth did a tremendous job catching nearly everything in sight this summer at Heinz Field, quickly turning heads on the offensive and defensive sides of the football.
Granted, the learning curves for tight ends in the NFL are rather steep for rookies, but if there’s one true in-line rookie tight end that can break that trend, it’s Freiermuth in his role in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger already showed a tendency to target him heavily in the red zone, and that shouldn’t really change once the bright lights come on and the games start to really count.