The Pittsburgh Steelers asked a lot of their rookie draft class in 2021. Of the eight (out of nine) draft picks who made the 53-man roster, seven of them played significant snaps over the course of the year, with five of them (including punter Pressley Harvin III) being starters.
A slight, slight surprise was second-round tight end Pat Freiermuth being named co-starter from the outside alongside Eric Ebron, but it didn’t take too long for him to demonstrate why the coaching staff put their trust in him. Outside of a couple of high-profile blemishes (both of which he still seems haunted by the memory of), he was quite reliable.
Not so much his body, which he has taken pains to transform this offseason, even if the scale may not tell the full story. “I worked hard this offseason to put on some muscle on my upper body”, he told reporters in the locker room yesterday during OTAs. “That was my biggest thing last year, was I don’t think I was a good blocker at the point of attack, so that’s something that I definitely want to work on this year”.
“I was definitely beat up”, he admitted, in explaining why he focused on adding muscle. “I’m actually lighter than I was last year. I’m just bigger. I was definitely beat up at the end of last season, but I think taking a couple weeks off and really honing on specifically what I need this offseason has been huge for me”.
Many young players, especially those who contribute significantly to their teams’ efforts during their rookie season, come back in year two with a transformed physique. They have had not only a year’s worth of experience listening to their body about what it needs, but also to their veteran teammates…also telling them what their body needs, because they’ve gone through it.
“The benefit of putting on more muscle weight, it’s gonna last longer throughout the season, and we’re not gonna feel as beat up later on in the season”, he said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things that I learned from the vets about how seriously they take their bodies in the offseason and during the season, keeping that muscle on”.
Freiermuth logged over 700 offensive snaps during his rookie season, including the playoffs, over 17 games (missing one due to a concussion). He recorded 64 receptions for 522 yards and seven touchdowns. One of his focuses, though, is greatly improving that yards-per-catch figure.
Adding muscle will help that on multiple fronts, both in terms of the ability to break through more tackles and the ability to remain healthy and well-conditioned throughout the season. I think we can very much expect to see a notably improved Pat Freiermuth on the field for [insert quarterback here] during the 2022 season and beyond.