Adjusting to the NFL as a rookie tight end was rather difficult for Pittsburgh Steelers’ budding star Pat Freiermuth.
Along with a tough transition historically at the position for rookies across the league, Freiermuth also found himself in the No. 2 role behind veteran Eric Ebron to open the season, leading to a relatively slow start overall for the Penn State star. Through the first six weeks, Freiermuth had just 20 catches for 158 yards and one score.
The Week 6 performance against the Seattle Seahawks (seven catches, 58 yards) became a sign of things to come for the second-round draft pick though as in Week 7 on the road against the Cleveland Browns, Freiermuth had his true breakout game, hauling in four passes for 44 yards and a pivotal touchdown. Though those numbers aren’t eye-popping for Freiermuth, he credits the 15-10 win over the Browns in Week 7 as the game where things really started to click overall, leading to an impressive rookie season that saw him finish with 60 passes for 497 yards and seven touchdowns, bursting onto the scene as one of the next up-and-coming tight ends in the NFL.
Appearing on the Breneman Shows Up Podcast with host Adam Breneman, Freiermuth spoke about his transition to the NFL, being part of Ben Roethlisberger’s final season, and what Ebron meant to him overall as a rookie, but that game against Cleveland was a key turning point in the discussion for the second-year Steelers tight end.
“I kind of started, like, I started clicking after like the Cleveland game, just kind of the first Cleveland game, just kind of going into a hostile environment like that experience,” Freiermuth told Breneman. “That was my first real experience of, ‘these fans hate us.’ I think that’s the difference between NFL and college is the fans in college, they’re kind of like cheer for their team, we don’t really talk about anyone else. But in the NFL it’s like, they literally hate me.”
Welcome to the NFL, rookie.
The Steelers and Browns rivalry goes back a long time, often with the Steelers emerging victorious. However, the Browns have rebounded in recent years and knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs prior to Freiermuth’s rookie season, making for some bad blood ahead of the first matchup of the year in Week 7 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
That Freiermuth had the last laugh on a circus touchdown catch in the back of the end zone from a Roethlisberger pass was icing on the cake for the rookie tight end.
Following that performance in Week 7 at Cleveland, Freiermuth found the end zone in three of his next four games, including a huge showing on Monday Night Football against the Chicago Bears, hauling in two touchdowns in a 29-27 win at Heinz Field.
Following a rough start to the season overall, Freiermuth used the Week 7 performance as a springboard, hauling in 36 of his 60 catches, 295 of his 497 yards, and five of his seven touchdowns, showcasing just how bright his future is in the Steel City.