While his rookie season has been something just short of flawless, Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth has had a strong start to his career, and he has already gained the trust of his coaches and teammates—and especially quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has been favoring him on possession downs and in the red zone.
Part of the reason he has gained this trust is because of the fact that he has demonstrated very good hands, a reputation that he already carried in college. He does have two drops on the season, a very high-profile non-catch, and a fumble, so he hasn’t been perfect.
But these are minor blemishes in comparison to the multitude of contested catches that he has made in slightly less acrimonious circumstances than they supplied by Harrison Smith on the final play of last week’s game. Speaking to reporters yesterday, he talked about the mentality of the contested catch and what it takes to succeed in that environment.
“I think it’s the want to get the ball”, he said. “The mentality that I’ve had since college, and now my tight ends coach, [Alfredo Robert], I think he’s done a great job with making us every single day have those contested-catch drills and just build our confidence in that element of the game. Credit to him, credit to the rest of the guys, and Ben, obviously, just throwing it up there and making sure that I’m gonna come down with it”.
A second-round pick out of Penn State, Freiermuth has 45 catches to his name thus far for 385 yards and seven touchdowns. That is already tied for the most touchdowns by a rookie tight end in team history, and one away from tying the all-time single-season club record for the position. He can tie the Steelers’ rookie receiving touchdown record, tied by Chase Claypool last year, with two more over the final four games.
He did have one touchdown last week. He very nearly had a second on that final play that has been talked about so much over the course of the past week. I sincerely hope that nobody who is not Freiermuth counts that one as a drop, though he acknowledged that he should have caught it, even while crediting Smith for making a great play in knocking the ball out before he could secure possession.
He has six touchdowns over the course of the past seven weeks, so the notion of him adding two touchdowns over the final four weeks downright plausible. But what I would really like to see is for him to get more opportunities in the intermediate range. There’s no reason he should be averaging just 8.6 yards per reception; he just hasn’t been provided the opportunities to make plays with the ball in his hands.