Failure can be an exciting thing. Failure can teach you where you need to get better to improve your chances of succeeding next time. In perhaps no other field is that lesson so repeatedly and viscerally learned than in sports, a journey that we see athletes take every year.
It’s the central premise behind the ‘second-year jump’ that we often hear about, and of which Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is a big advocate. Considering this is a team that has more than half a dozen contributors entering their second season in 2022, including several starters, that’s pretty important.
And one of them, second-round tight end Pat Freiermuth, talked to Teresa Varley recently for the team’s website about the excitement he feels in heading into this offseason knowing now what he needs to work on after going through his rookie year.
“I need to improve in my in-line blocking”, the Penn State alum told her. Though he said that he is generally comfortable with where he is as a blocker in space, he acknowledges he is continuing to build the coaches’ trust in his ability to handle that role at the line.
“Point of attack blocking, being able to move people, I think that my upper body strength, core strength, my footwork, strike”, these are all areas in which Freiermuth said he needs to work on. “Everything”, he added. “I’m confident that I will be able to do it next year”.
It’s not just as a blocker in which he hopes to grow this offseason, either. As a receiver, he wants to work on getting the ball down the field more. “I’ll just get better at my routes”, he said. “You can always work at that level and run after. Coach Tomlin always talks about that. Just getting more comfortable with that”.
Freiermuth caught 60 passes as a rookie last season, among the most in team history for a rookie, but that only produced 497 yards. His 8.3 yards per reception make Jesse James look like Travis Kelce in comparison.
There are a lot of factors contributing to that number that he couldn’t control last year, and of course you can only catch the passes thrown to you, which in his case averaged just 5.3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. But he knows there are areas in which he can get better to help raise that number.
“I definitely have to get a little more comfortable and be asked to run downfield more and run those deeper routes”, he said, after noting that teams are probably going to be looking at him to run short and intermediate routes. “I think this offseason is big for me being able to showcase that I can do that and work on doing that”.
If he can indeed show growth in those two areas, then it’s hard to put a limit on how good Freiermuth can be as the Steelers’ number one tight end. It is a tall task that he is handing himself, certainly, but I do think he has the ability—and the frame, and the athleticism—to take these steps in time.