Pittsburgh Steelers rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth exited yesterday’s game to be checked for a concussion, and was ultimately ruled out. Head coach Mike Tomlin noted after the game that he was in the concussion protocol, though he did not explicitly state that he was diagnosed with a concussion.
If he did, it would be the second concussion he has suffered during his rookie season, which would raise concerns; by all appearances, however, he seems to be doing well. WCVB sports anchor Mike Lynch tweeted last night that he had heard from Freiermuth’s brother, who said that Pat was actually driving the family home and that “he’s good”.
Just heard from Pats brother who sent this along. “Pat is driving us home he’s good!” https://t.co/Z6KGBhRWLg
— Mike Lynch (@LynchieWCVB) December 19, 2021
Teammate and fellow tight end Zach Gentry spoke to the media today. The two became fast friends once Freiermuth was drafted in the second round back during the spring. He also had positives to report on that front. “We’re good buddies, so glad he’s doing alright”, he said.
“I talked to him immediately after the game—we’re lockermates. I checked in with him a couple times during the night, making sure he was alright”, Gentry added. “First thing I did when I woke up this morning was text him, and I saw him at the facility. He’s in good spirits, he’s doing alright”.
Assuming that he does have a concussion, he will obviously have to go through the steps of clearing protocols, but the early indications would seem to favor the notion that he would be able to clear and play in the Steelers’ next game, which is a big one against the Kansas City Chiefs—who just put their star tight end, Travis Kelce, on the Reserve/COVID-19 List.
Freiermuth has caught seven touchdown passes so far during his rookie season. That is already the most by a rookie tight end in team history, and among the most in NFL history. He is only one touchdown away from tying the Steelers’ franchise record for the most touchdown receptions by a tight end in a single season.
His role only became more and more important as the season wore on, first after losing slot receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for the season, and then later tight end Eric Ebron, with whom Freiermuth was listed as co-starter to begin the season.
With Ebron sidelined, Freiermuth and Gentry have been the top tight ends, though both have been contributing regularly since the beginning of the season, the latter primarily in a blocking capacity. Gentry did field a 17-yard catch-and-run pass on the play after Freiermuth left the game yesterday, though he only has 10 grabs for 97 yards on the year.
In the event that the rookie could not play, of course, Gentry’s role would be dramatically expanded; he was, however, regarded as more of a receiving tight end than a blocker coming out of college, so it’s not as though he can’t catch.
Kevin Rader, who has been on the 53-man roster since Ebron’s injury, would move into the number two role. Jace Sternberger is a third-year veteran tight end who is on the practice squad and could be elevated, though they could well just go with two tight ends.