The Pittsburgh Steelers have been reliant upon their rookie talent this season. They have, overall, been positive contributors to the team’s efforts, and perhaps not reflective of their .500 record. Their first four draft picks in particular are all starters on offense, and in terms of consistency, it may be second-round tight end Pat Freiermuth who has been the most reliable.
Entering last night’s game, the rookie had 11 receptions on the season for 100 yards and one touchdown. During the week, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger mentioned that perhaps he has to do more to get the tight end involved more.
He did that, with Freiermuth finishing last night’s game with seven receptions on seven targets for 58 yards. Those numbers might not sound huge—and a couple of them came up a bit short on third and long, not that there was much he could do—but it shows that connection building between the 39-year-old passer and the rookie tight end who is already becoming a security blanket, as wide receiver Diontae Johnson noticed.
“Just his consistency, sure hands. He’s smart, a great football player”, Johnson said of Freiermuth after the game about what he sees in the rookie. “He’s always gonna be at the right spot at the right time when Ben needs him. He’s been showing that at practice as well. He’s got a great game all around, so you can’t take nothing from him, but just be there and cheer him on”.
The Steelers were committed to addressing the tight end position this offseason after Vance McDonald retired, this marking the first time they have used a draft pick earlier than the fifth round on a tight end since 2007.
Freiermuth is already proving himself to be the sort of player they thought he could be when they drafted him. He does have one drop on the season, but outside of that, he has caught virtually everything thrown his way this year. He has caught 18 of 20 passes for a catch percentage of 90 through the first six games of his career.
And he is also contributing as a blocker while logging about 50 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. Interestingly, they have hardly asked him to contribute on special teams at all. But when you’re named a starter (or co-starter) from the jump, you get to skip that part.
This year, they have all three tight ends contributing. Eric Ebron had his best night of the year, and even scored a rushing touchdown, while coming down with a clutch third-down grab in traffic and through contract. Zach Gentry has been a regular contributor, primarily as a blocker. Things are looking up at this position for once.