Pittsburgh Steelers: Pat Freiermuth on track to start at tight end?

Pat Freiermuth. Mandatory Credit: Karl Roster/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports
Pat Freiermuth. Mandatory Credit: Karl Roster/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers may be forced to fast forward their 2021 plans for Pat Freiermuth as the rookie tight end continues to impress.

The Pittsburgh Steelers selected tight end Pat Freiermuth No. 55 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Tight ends usually take until their third year to develop. Even though that is usually the case, this rookie tight end could potentially buck that trend.

Now, the Steelers do have Eric Ebron penciled in as their starting tight end, but he has struggled with drops and is not the best blocker. The veteran is also more of a vertical threat in the passing game and happens to be in the last year of his contract with Pittsburgh.

Then there’s Freiermuth. The rookie enjoyed a breakout game in the Steelers’ second preseason matchup against the Lions as he could’ve had three touchdowns if Mason Rudolph hadn’t been off-target with a throw. Still, he played with the starting offense and ended the night with two scores.

Granted, this was only the preseason, meaning expectations and extrapolation based on that game should be tempered. However, with Freiermuth’s receiving ability in addition to the fact that he’s a more capable blocker than Ebron, the rookie could overtake the veteran as Pittsburgh’s starting tight end.

Pat Freiermuth is already living up to big expectations for Pittsburgh Steelers tight ends.

In Pittsburgh, being a tight end comes with some pretty lofty expectations. Almost any tight end that joins the Steelers via free agency or the NFL Draft is instantly compared to franchise legend Heath Miller.

Long-time quarterback Ben Roethlisberger loosely mentioned Heath Miller when talking about Freiermuth after his big performance against the Lions in the preseason:

Should Pat Freiermuth continue this upward progression in the regular season, it will be really hard for the Steelers to keep him off the field. They would be able to get him on the field in 12-personnel with Ebron in those two-tight end sets.

As the 2021 NFL season drags on, I would not at all be surprised to see Freiermuth with a growing snap share. That will depend on how steep his learning curve is and how sound he is in his blocking assignments. Above all else, the Steelers value sound blocking in the running game from both their wide receivers and their tight ends.

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Having had a front-row seat to Heath Miller’s entire NFL career, Roethlisberger comparing Pat Freiermuth to the Pittsburgh legend carries a lot of weight in the locker room and with their fanbase. It’s very early but so far the signs from the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie tight end are quite promising.