Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has seen a lot of players come and go during his nearly two decades in the NFL. Two tight ends have already played their entire careers since he first came into the league, the first being Heath Miller, the second being Vance McDonald, with only a couple of years of overlap.
Both are now retired, the former long gone, but now he has Pat Freiermuth, the rookie out of Penn State, who is the highest-traded tight end by the Steelers since Miller in 2005. The man they call MUUUTTTHHH whenever he catches a pass is just building his relationship with Roethlisberger, and frankly, for that matter, with the Steelers as well.
“It’s pretty wild. I grew up in Boston, so I was rooting for [Tom] Brady when I was younger”, Freiermuth said on the Good Morning Football program yesterday. “We were taught not to like the Steelers. But coming in, [Roethlisberger] called me when I got drafted and said, ‘there’s no more room for the Patriots, you’re a Steeler now’”.
Of course, spending his college career in the state of Pennsylvania, he was obviously exposed plenty to the Steelers, even if it’s not quite the same as playing at Pitt. But he also talked about literally growing up watching Roethlisberger play, and what it’s been like to actually now be able to play with him.
“He’s awesome, and it’s been awesome just to learn from him and see what it takes day in and day out to be a successful professional football player”, he said. “He’s a great guy, and our relationship has moved forward these past couple of weeks into something that I think is gonna be special for us this season”.
I am perhaps reading a bit too much into it, but I did think it was interesting that he specified this season, though it’s no secret that it’s likely Roethlisberger will not be brought back for the 2022 season one way or another. Still, it colors the conversation with Freiermuth understanding he’s not going to have a years-long relationship with his quarterback.
But what matters is what they have now and whether or not it’s working, and we can answer emphatically that it is. Roethlisberger has targeted Freiermuth 20 times through the first six games, yielding 18 receptions for 158 yards and a touchdown, and you know those numbers are only going to get better as the season progresses.
It’s easy to like a tight end like Freiermuth if you’re a cornerback, of course. Though he’s not an elite athlete, he has enough juice to create separation. He knows his routes and zone concepts, and he has great hands. He’s a student of the game who’s going to be in the spot he’s supposed to be in. He’s exactly what you want in a security blanket, which is what he’ll have to be now that JuJu Smith-Schuster is gone.