So much about the game of football comes down to timing, whether it’s in the orientation of routes and passes or blocking patterns, blitzes, disguising coverages, or simply getting off the snap. More than timing, there has to be rapport, a chemistry between players to get the most out of a group.
At least in the opinions of certain quarterbacks and tight ends, those two positions have a special relationship that makes it more conducive to building those bonds, as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ tight end, Pat Freiermuth, and his former quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, explained.
“It’s easier for them to build a relationship because all tight ends are a pretty similar speed; we all have similar traits as opposed to a receiver like George [Pickens] or ‘Tae [Diontae Johnson]”, Freiermuth said on the last episode of Roethlisberger’s Footbahlin podcast.
“I feel like quarterbacks are so comfortable with tight ends because they can gauge, as most guys are gonna be in the same spot, the same area”, he added, explaining how he’s tried to be that security blanket for new quarterback Kenny Pickett.
Roethlisberger, who’s repeatedly said that he wishes he got a chance to play more than one season with Freiermuth, completely concurred with the young tight end’s belief that there’s an easier connection between the two positions, recalling the great relationship he had with another tight end, and explaining why.
“They’ve saved my butt more times than not, in the huddle. I call a play, Heath [Miller] would be like, ‘Ben, that’s wrong’. ‘What do you mean?’. ‘Can’t do that’. ‘Oh, okay, you’re right’”, he said, giving an example of what he means.
“I would tell tight ends, ‘You guys are the extension of us’. You guys have to know what everybody does”, he explained. “If I screw up, the only guy that’s gonna pick up that I screwed up or that we called the wrong play is the tight end. Because he has to know the blocking, he has to know the passing, the run. He has to know it all, too”.
The tight end position has diverged over the course of the past couple of decades, of course, with many of the players today considered at the top of the position being pass-catchers first and second, with blocking being a tertiary concern.
Freiermuth is still largely a pass-catcher first, thanks in no small part to Zach Gentry, their other tight end, but blocking is a part of his game that he still takes seriously. He also knows this is an area in which he still has to grow in terms of his execution, but his understanding of those responsibilities also plays a role in his knowing what his quarterback wants him to do.