Ben Roethlisberger has been careful not to be too complimentary of rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth. But it’s clear that since Day One, Roethlisberger planned to do everything in his power to make 2021 a successful one for him. Freiermuth sat down in a 1v1 interview with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews. Freiermuth said his locker sits next to Roethlisberger’s. And that wasn’t an accident.
“They were kind of like, ‘your locker is over here,'” he told Matthews posted on the team’s website. “And we’re walking over. And he was like, ‘oh, this was requested by [Roethlisberger]. And I was like, ‘oh wow.’ So that’s how I kind of found out. It was pretty cool, obviously, to have my locker next to a future Hall of Famer and a great guy Ben is. I definitely enjoy it.”
The Roethlisberger-to-Freiermuth connection has been red hot this season, especially since the team lost JuJu Smith-Schuster for the season. Here are Freiermuth’s splits before and after the injury.
Before JuJu’s Injury: 11 receptions, 100 yards 1 TD (5 games)
After JuJu’s Injury: 16 receptions, 145 yards 3 TDs (3 games)
Freiermuth is up to four touchdowns through his first eight games, the first rookie tight end to accomplish that since the New York Giants’ Evan Engram in 2017 and the first of any Steeler since Heath Miller in 2005. The benefits of having your locker next to your quarterback are obvious and Freiermuth said that daily interaction is a big help in developing his game.
“It helps a lot. Obviously in the locker room, we are able to talk about things that may have happened at practice or things that we see. It’s just kind of an extra space for us to talk about what happens on the practice field, the game or something like that. And obviously just to get to know each other and just continue to build that relationship.”
A relationship that appears to be quickly growing. Though the curve for rookie tight ends is steep, Freiermuth’s been able to overcome that so far. The next challenge will be showing he can run through the tape and play to the level he’s at for an entire 17-game season and essentially, a 21-game season including four preseason games. If he and the rest of this rookie class can do that, come the playoffs, they’ll have a couple extra games to play in.