The Steelers entered the off-season with a few glaring needs, tight end being one of them. Veteran Eric Ebron enjoyed a solid 2020 season, but he’s not a long-term option. Vance McDonald retired after a few injury-plagued, memorable seasons in black and gold. Beyond Ebron, there was Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader, clearly not enough for the 2021 season.
Due to the lack of depth, the Steelers drafted Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth in the second round of the NFL Draft. Picked 55th overall, it was a surprising pick to some fans that were expecting an offensive lineman or defensive back to be selected.
Through five games in his NFL career, Freiermuth has impressed those around the organization with his above-average hands and blocking. His stats haven’t quite reflected that yet, as he’s racked up just 11 catches for 100 yards and one touchdown in his rookie season. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger mentioned Freiermuth’s lack of inclusion in the offense thus far:
”I probably need to be better getting him involved more because I trust him. He’s in the right spot,” Roethlisberger said about the TE’s progression Wednesday. “He had a couple of big third down catches last week.”
Roethlisberger clearly thinks highly of the rookie tight end by coming out and saying upfront that he needs to feed him more. It does begin with Freiermuth seeing the field more though. He’s played just 48% of the Steelers’ offensive snaps this season.
This is something that the coaching staff is likely easing him into, as he continues to get used to the gameplay of the NFL. JuJu Smith-Schuster’s injury will likely force the Steelers hand as well in putting Freiermuth on the field more.
”It’s on me to get him involved more. I need to start making a more conscious effort to do that.”
Utilizing Freiermuth’s talent could be crucial in unlocking some more of this offense’s potential. They’ve gone through their struggles this season, but using the talented tight end can help them continue to progress. And who knows, Freiermuth may be likely to become Roethlisberger’s “safety blanket” with Smith-Schuster out for the season. Regardless, expect to hear many more “MUUUTH” chants this season.