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Pat Freiermuth: “I feel very confident…”

Twitter: @JSKO_PHOTO

Pat Freiermuth: “I feel very confident…”

The season-long loss of JuJu Smith-Schuster is undoubtedly a blow to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense.  Naturally, this will open up opportunities for his wide receiver counterparts in James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud, and even Cody White.  However, with offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s play-calling, they won’t be the only ones to reap the benefits of Smith-Schuster’s absence; also look for tight end Pat Freiermuth and even Eric Ebron.

I know what you’re thinking; Ebron hasn’t been what we expected from his days with the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts.  But Ebron has embraced that “TE2” role in pairing with Freiermuth to develop and cultivate a well-rounded offensive attack.  He even ran in a sweep play for a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks, which is typically where we would have seen Smith-Schuster.  But earlier on Wednesday, it was Freiermuth who took some time with members of the media to talk about his first 10 games in the NFL and what he is doing to grow the bond between himself and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  As a part of this, he was naturally asked about the opportunities he sees for himself without Smith-Schuster on the field.  Freiermuth explained:

“I’m going to do what the coaches and the offense feels fit for me to do.  If that’s getting more receptions or getting more targets or blocking more, than I’m going to do that.  Obviously, there is an opportunity, but I definitely miss JuJu out there.”

 

 

After 11 seasons with Heath Miller, Roethlisberger developed a unique relationship with the reliable and consistent tight end.  Since Miller’s retirement in 2015, Roethlisberger hasn’t seemed to regain that in the other tight ends the Steelers have brought into Pittsburgh.  But that is looking like it is changing with Freiermuth.  Last week, Roethlisberger admitted he needs to get him the ball more.  When asked if he feels like he can be Roethlisberger’s reliable safety blanket, Freiermuth replied:

“I hope so.  It’s an awesome feeling obviously getting the targets I did this past week, but obviously I just got to continue to improve and continue to be there for him when he needs me.”

 

So far, he’s proven to “be there” for Roethlisberger when he needs him.  Through the first 6 games, Freiermuth holds a catch percentage of 90% (18 of 20) for 158 total yards (8.8 yards per catch) and a touchdown.  It looks like Roethlisberger and Freiermuth are both right; Roethlisberger has to get him the ball more and Freiermuth is growing to be the reliable tight end Roethlisberger has been missing.  For reference in comparison to his predecessor in Miller, Freiermuth’s catch percentage is higher than what Miller’s was in his rookie season (75% in 2005).  In comparing average yards per target, there is about a yard difference between the two, with Miller’s at 8.8 yards and 7.9 yards for Freiermuth.  It is important to note Miller’s sample size is vastly larger (16 games) than Freiermuth’s, but there is starting to be some correlation between the two tight ends.  When asked about what their bond is like, Freiermuth proclaimed:

“It’s very valuable.  Just having a quarterback that’s been in the league for as long as he has and just learning from a future Hall of Famer, and understanding what he sees in the game and what I can implement into my game.”  He went onto explain, “We’re building that relationship (between Roethlisberger an Freiermuth) and it’s an everyday thing.  In the off-season, he’s had us over to his house a couple of times just to get used to us and that kind of stuff.  It’s been awesome.” 

 

 

When asked about the biggest thing Roethlisberger has taught him so far, Freiermuth said:

“I think honestly just how to prepare.  He probably watches the most film on the team, trying to feel out how the defense does things in trying to stop our offense and understanding what it takes to prepare us to go into a game and be successful.”

 

The transition from collegiate football to the NFL is not an easy one.  Freiermuth talked a lot about this transition and growth as an NFL player.  When asked about what has been one of the biggest growing opportunities thus far, Freiermuth responded:

“Probably just my understanding of the offense. Understanding a little bit going into the season, but you know just getting used to that game speed and everything like that and understanding what they’re asking me to do in the offense, and just getting used to that through the season so far. That’s probably where I’ve grown the most.”

 

Confidence also plays a big role in a player’s development.  Freiermuth’s answer to his confidence in himself in learning the playbook and the offense was:

“I’m fully there now.  Understanding the offense and what they’re trying to have us do as a whole and specifically the tight end position, I feel very confident and I’m ready to go attack the games after the bye week.”

 

Freiermuth will need to step up to fill the void on offense left my Smith-Schuster.  But based off what we’ve seen thus far, he can certainly do it; it is just a matter of Roethlisberger giving him the opportunities to do so.

 

What do you think of Freiermuth’s performance so far this season?  How do you think the offense will fair after the bye week?  Let us know in the comments below!

#SteelerNation

Growing up in Pennsylvania, the Steelers played a major role in my life. I have watched every game since 2001 and have an entire closet solely dedicated to Steelers jerseys. You can find me on Twitter at @TheBenSauce_duh and Instragram at @benmic_alien. I now live in the Charlotte branch of Steeler Nation. I can't wait to share my passion for all things Steelers with you!

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