One needn’t search very long or hard to come across one of Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin offering up some praise about what they love about playing under him, whether there are grizzled 10-year veterans or guys in their rookie seasons.
But that shouldn’t be surprising. Tomlin has carried the reputation of being a ‘player’s coach’, for better and worse, for virtually his entire head coaching career. He makes as much positive use out of it as he can manage, including in impacting last year’s rookie class.
One of them, second-round tight end Pat Freiermuth, talked about one particular quality he most appreciates in Tomlin during a spot on the Breneman Shows Up show with Adam Breneman. “I’ve been very blessed with great coaches throughout my whole career. I think Coach Tomlin is one of the best coaches I’ve ever been a part of”, he said.
He talked about the nature in which Tomlin runs things within the organization, and his ability to challenge players to be their best selves, which is a common citation. But one thing that seemed to stick out to him is the clarity with which he conveys his expectations for people.
“There is no gray area. He doesn’t show up and be like, ‘We kind of want you to do this, but if you do it like this…’”, he said. “It’s like, ‘No, this is what you’re supposed to do, and if you don’t do it, you’re gonna be unemployed’”. I think that’s where guys really respect him, is there’s no gray area. It’s awesome. I love being a part of that organization”.
I don’t think Freiermuth is going to have to worry about being unemployed in the immediate future. He caught 60 passes during his rookie season for 497 yards and scored seven touchdowns, which is a team rookie tight end record (also the second-most by a tight end in team history).
He entered his rookie season listed as a co-starter with Eric Ebron, who is now a free agent, so he is taking on a full-time number one role now. He only played six games last season in which he logged more than 70 percent of the snaps, for example, finishing his rookie season with under 700 snaps played (he did miss one game).
But there is certainly room for more opportunities there, and I’m sure Tomlin expects him to seize those extra snaps by attacking this offseason. Freiermuth has previously discussed the ways in which Tomlin has challenged him to better his game and the areas he intends to focus on this offseason.
He has the potential to be one of the top tight ends in football, but he’s not there just yet. He showed pretty sound reliability as a rookie, but it’s time to start showing more play-making, and more consistency in his game without the ball in his hands.