Fresh off of a breakout rookie season that featured 60 receptions for 497 yards and seven touchdowns, Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth is poised for a big second season as more of a focal point of the black and gold’s offense.
Though Ben Roethlisberger rode off into retirement, the additions of veteran free agent QB Mitch Trubisky and rookie QB Kenny Pickett should allow Freiermuth to remain productive at a high rate, considering they use the middle of the field at a much higher clip than Roethlisberger ever did.
Thanks to his outstanding rookie season and a bright future ahead, Pro Football Focus remains rather high on Freiermuth moving forward, placing the Steelers’ second-year tight end at No. 11 overall in its position rankings ahead of the 2021 season.
Freiermuth’s ranking at No. 11 places him in the third tier at the position, titled “the best of the rest,” as he just missed out on the top 10 behind New England’s Hunter Henry. Elsewhere in the top 10, PFF named Kansas City’s Travis Kelce the league’s best tight end, and included Baltimore’s Mark Andrews at No. 4 overall.
PFF ranked just 15 tight ends overall, so Freiermuth edged out the likes of Buffalo’s Dawson Knox, Los Angeles’s Tyler Higbee, Arizona’s Zach Ertz, and Miami’s Mike Gesicki, a fellow Penn State product.
“Freiermuth was known for his play strength at Penn State, and that continued in his first NFL season,” PFF’s Anthony Treash writes. “The Steelers tight end held up to NFL physicality and finished the regular season tied for sixth in both contested catches (10) and broken tackles after the catch (11). That helped him post a top-10 receiving grade at the position in 2021. Freiermuth’s tools don’t match up to those of some of the elite pass-catching tight ends, but that’s not to say he can’t get closer to Tier 1 down the line.”
Freiermuth certainly added a physical element to the Steelers’ offense after the catch as a rookie, recording 11 forced missed tackles from our own charting here at Steelers Depot, as well as 11 broken tackles after the catch from Pro Football Focus.
After having shoulder surgery in his final season at Penn State, Freiermuth mostly held up physically, though he stated he felt run down at the end of his rookie season, and missed one game due to a concussion. Now, with a full year under his belt, he knows what’s required of him physically and mentally in the NFL, and should be in line for a big second season.
While he doesn’t have the elite traits like a George Kittle or Travis Kelce has, Freiermuth has elite-level hands and simply knows how to get open, which goes a long way at the position overall. He should work his way inside the top 10 and closer to Tier 1 as his career progresses.