After practice today, tight end Pat Freiermuth talked to Missi Matthews of Steelers.com on Training Camp 2022 Wrap Up, via the team’s website. Freiermuth didn’t play in Saturday’s game, but he talked about how he thought the rest of the team played, including fellow tight end Connor Heyward.
“I thought they played hard, I thought they played great,” Freiermuth said. “Connor, in our room, he made some great plays. I think overall the team is good, and I think we’re in a great spot right now to go forward.”
Without Freiermuth or Zach Gentry playing, Pittsburgh’s tight ends combined for five catches for 50 yards on Saturday. Heyward had two catches for 24 yards and also caught a two-point conversion, but he also had a rookie mistake when he stopped short on a route that almost led to a Mason Rudolph interception. As a whole though, Heyward looked fine, although he’s not really a traditional tight end.
Jace Sternberger had two receptions for 20 yards, including an 11-yard reception that was Kenny Pickett’s first completion. Kevin Rader also had a reception for six yards. Freiermuth and Gentry are going to be the top two tight ends on the team, so while the rest of the group looked good, it’s not really the group you’ll be seeing in Week 1.
I’d have Connor Heyward on the 53-man roster, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Rader once again ended up on the practice squad. Either way, I’m not sure how much of an impact those two are going to make this year. Heyward’s unique skillset could allow the team to scheme some plays for him, but ultimately he isn’t a true tight end and unless he takes major reps away from Derek Watt at fullback (which I don’t see happening), his year one upside is a little bit limited.
Regardless, it was good to see Heyward and the rest of the tight end room perform well. Tight end is an important position for a lot of reasons, including being a safety blanket for a quarterback, and outside of Heyward’s mistake, those guys fulfilled that role well on Saturday. I’m looking forward to seeing what this group does with Freiermuth and Gentry back in the fold.