As we close out the Pittsburgh Steelers Mini Camp at Heinz Field and look towards Training Camp, it is easy to get excited for the 2021 NFL season. In an offseason that is focused on bolstering a lacking run-game in 2020, rebuilding the offensive line, and adding depth at the outside linebacker position, it goes without saying that General Manager Kevin Colbert and Head Coach Mike Tomlin are in full “face lift” mode. We’ve heard from running backs coach Eddie Faulkner about how great rookie Najee Harris has looked. We’ve heard from Defensive Assistant Teryl Austin praising the young defensive backs fighting for the slot corner position. We’ve even heard Special Teams Coordinator Danny Smith talk about how excited he is to work with rookie Pressley Harvin, III. But one coach, and one major position, that has been relatively under the radar is Tight Ends Coach Alfredo Roberts and the new tight end corps we will see this season.
Since the retirement of Heath Miller in 2016, the Steelers haven’t been able to find a consistent, reliable tight end. For the past five years, the tight end position in the NFL has evolved into a critical piece to a successful offensive unit. Further, tight ends now are being asked to wear different hats and do things they’ve never done before. In doing so, they cause headaches for opposing defenses. The Steelers recognize this and used the draft to address it in the way of 2nd round selection Pat Freiermuth out of Penn State. In college, Freiermuth was a major asset in the passing game and dominated in the red zone. He has strong hands and is able to use his body to shield off smaller defensive backs. Needless to say, new Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada is frothing at the mouth with his new playbook.
Canada is known for featuring tight ends in various alignments in the offense. Veteran Eric Ebron has expressed his excitement of what is to come throughout the offseason and conveyed that last Thursday.
“It gets me very excited. I think I’ll get featured a lot more; the tight end position period will be featured a lot more. From having Pat and the other guys we have, our tight end room is pretty strong,” Ebron explained. During the OTA’s, Freiermuth talked about the differences in how Canada utilizes the tight ends compared to what he saw in college. When asked about the pre-snap motions, Freiermuth explained, “just from the first install that we did, there’s a decent amount. I did not do a lot of pre-snap motion at Penn State.” He went on to describe Canada’s offense for tight ends as “complex but simple in the same way.”
Coach Canada is up to something that I think is going to be fun to watch. Canada is going to feature the tight end position like something Steelers fans have never seen before. The Steelers understand the value of what elite tight ends can bring to an offense, and the 2021 season is going to be record-setting for them in Pittsburgh.
For the Steelers starting in September, every day is going to be National Tight Ends Day. Get ready to celebrate.
What are you expecting from the tight ends this season? Let us know in the comments below!