Even if the Pittsburgh Steelers had viable alternatives or not, chances are this year’s rookie class was going to contribute fairly heavily this year either way, or at least their top two draft picks would. That includes second-round tight end Pat Freiermuth, who has effectively become their number one at the position, even with former Pro Bowler Eric Ebron on the roster.
While Ebron admitted—as anybody would—that he would like more opportunities to contribute than he has gotten so far this season, that hasn’t stopped him from taking Freiermuth under his wing, and it doesn’t hurt that he just can’t help but be impressed by the Penn State product.
“To be a rookie, I think he’s phenomenal. I didn’t have the mental mindset Pat does”, he said, during his own rookie year, though Ebron did come out of school young, having turned 21 the same month in which he was drafted. “I love that little dude”.
And that dude has an inquisitive mind, which as the veteran in the room, he is happy to indulge. “Pat asks me more questions than anybody. It’s like my third child”, Ebron joked. “He’s a student of the game, and you rarely use that term on a lot of people. He’s very young, you understand that, but he’s a student of the game, and yes, he picks my mind”.
That remark will inevitably lead to jokes in the comments section, particularly about the fact that Ebron is not a great blocker, but he is still an eight-year veteran in the National Football League, and has seen a thing or two, particularly in playing in several different offenses, even two different conferences.
“I offer him a lot of detail, because I’ve played against a lot of these teams, I’ve played against a lot of our opponents, and try to help him separate his physical from his mental, because this league is more about mental than it is physical, and as we can see, Pat is physically gifted”, he said. “We just try to continue to keep him headstrong. This is a bye week; we’ve got 11 straight games, so my job is to try to keep him as mentally strong as I can for the 11 games”.
So far through his rookie season, Freiermuth has already eclipsed 200 snaps logged through six games, and his play share is only likely to increase as we move deeper into the campaign. He has only been targeted 20 times thus far, but he has caught 18 of those passes for a catch rate of 90 percent, for 158 yards and a touchdown.
Last week’s game was Pittsburgh’s first since wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s season-ending injury. Freiermuth saw his highest snap share and was targeted seven times, catching seven passes for 58 yards. Those are career highs that he is likely to break at least once or twice over the final 11 games.