From quarterback Kenny Pickett to running back Najee Harris, the Pittsburgh Steelers have invested their top picks in recent drafts on offensive players that they hope will remain with the team long-term. One of those players is tight end Pat Freiermuth, who the team took in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft and is now playing in his second season.
After the retirement of long-time tight end Heath Miller, the team arguably never found a true replacement until drafting Freiermuth. In his second season, the tight end is now playing with the team’s first round quarterback in Pickett, a duo that the franchise and the fan base hope to see for years to come. When asked about his relationship with Pickett, Freiermuth stated that their relationship is evolving on a Monday press conference according to Steelers.com.
“No, I’m pretty sure he stayed here and we talked a little bit, but nothing crazy,” Freiermuth said when asked about whether Pickett joined him in Boston over the bye week. “Everyone just kind of wanted to reset and just get back to where they were before the season, just attacking this next part of the season. Cuz you got a lot of games in front of us.”
After a 2-6 start, this bye week is indeed a chance for this team to regroup and reset. For Freiermuth and the offense, they have faced no shortage of criticism, and currently rank 31st in the league in points scored. Freiermuth, however, is arguably one of the lone bright spots on the offense, and one of Pickett’s favorite targets. Indeed, the tight end currently has the highest Pro Football Focus grade of any offensive player for the Steelers.
Now that slot receiver Chase Claypool was traded to the Chicago Bears, Freiermuth will likely get more targets from Pickett in the interior. In fact, head coach Mike Tomlin cited the comfort in the tight end as an interior option as one of the factors that contributed to the decision to pull the plug on the trade.
“Yeah,” Freiermuth continued. “Just talking about what we see and just the coverages that I see and what he sees and just kind of piggyback him up one another, what our thoughts are and stuff like that. So the relationship is obviously evolving more and more each day. Just continue to see our progress throughout this year and the rest of our careers.”
Now that Freiermuth figures to play a larger role in the offense, one can anticipate growth in his and Pickett’s chemistry. As the second-year tight end mentioned, they are trying to progress this season and the rest of their careers together, which is likely the vision the team has for the two.
The relationship between a quarterback and his tight end is a key to prolonged success. The Steelers know this very well, as the long-time duo of Ben Roethlisberger and Heath Miller was a fan-favorite and always gave Ben a security blanket. This duo’s relationship went beyond the field, as the two were close friends and Roethlisberger cited Miller as the best teammate he has had.
The comparasion between the Roethlisberger-Miller duo and the Pickett-Freiermuth one is similar in more ways than one. That is, Roethlisberger and Miller were drafted in the first round of back-to-back drafts, as the former was the team’s 2004 pick and the latter was 2005. Meanwhile, Freiermuth and Pickett were also picked back-to-back, as the former was the team’s 2021 second-round pick and the latter was the team’s 2022 first-round pick.
As a franchise that builds through the draft, the growth of the relationship between Pickett and his tight end is a rare bright spot in an otherwise gloomy season. It is still to early to say whether either or both of these players will have long careers in Pittsburgh. For now, there is a lot to smile about in this regard.