Ex-Penn State Star Pat Freiermuth Trending Up for Steelers

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The latest news, insight, and analysis of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, and Penn State Basketball, including schedules, game results, analysis of breaking news, rumors, speculation, and recruiting coverage of future Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home to the latest Penn State Nittany Lions news, updates, insight, and analysis, including in-depth coverage of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball, and much more

Former Penn State Star Pat Freiermuth Trending Up for Pittsburgh Steelers

This year Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth will have something he hasn’t had since his rookie year in Pittsburgh – a quarterback with Hall of Fame pedigree slinging it to him.

Back in 2021 it was Ben Roethlisberger. This year, Freiermuth will be catching passes from newly acquired Russell Wilson.

Pat Freiermuth
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth (Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

 

Last year the former Penn State star had three different quarterbacks throw to him, none of whom have proven they can even be a legitimate starting quarterback in this league,  let alone sniff the Hall of Fame in Mitchell Trubisky, Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph.

Pittsburgh recently traded Pickett to the Philadelphia Eagles and also traded with the Bears to acquire Justin Fields, who was Chicago’s starting quarterback for the last three years.

Freiermuth, who played 16 games in each of his first two NFL seasons, played in just 12 games last year due to injuries. He finished the year with just 32 receptions for 308 yards and two touchdowns and is hoping to bounce back from a down year.


Is Breakout Year Coming for Pat Freiermuth?

Pat Freiermuth
Dec 31, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth (Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)

 

It’s probably a good bet that Freiermuth will as he is entering the final year of his rookie contract and since he was a second-round pick back in 2021 out of Penn State, he has the luxury of being able to sign a larger extension, rather than waiting for the team to decide on his fifth-year option.

The former Happy Valley star is already off to a good start as he’s gotten an early jump on developing some early chemistry with the new QB 1 in the Burgh.

Speaking on the Around the 412 podcast, Freiermuth revealed he had recently been in southern California training with Wilson, running routes and working out together.

“I was just down there in San Diego with him working out and throwing routes,” Freiermuth said. “He’s been great at talking to guys and starting to build that connection. He’s a great guy. You can tell the drive and determination that he has to win and come to Pittsburgh and win some playoff games for us. I think he is going to fit our culture and locker room very well”

Freiermuth has been doing the podcast circuit and also recently appeared on the Podward State podcast, which is a Penn State Football podcast hosted by students. Freiermuth touched on forming new relationships with his quarterbacks when he was asked what that process looks like at the NFL level.

“It’s just building a relationship like any relationship in life, really. Doing the extra things like going out to dinner, or eating together in the cafeteria, and watching extra film together, football specifically. Just talking things through, what the quarterback sees, the timing he is talking about, different things like that. Then obviously getting on-field reps from that perspective, being able to work out with the guys. I’m in San Diego right now with Russ and a couple of the receivers and stuff, so just building that on-field rapport, as well as off.”

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Freiermuth to Be Russell Wilson’s Favorite Target?

Forming new relationships with quarterbacks is not a new concept for Freiermuth.

His rookie year, he was catching passes from future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger. He then had to adjust to Trubisky starting the year as his quarterback in 2022 before a rookie named Pickett took over. He ended the 2023 season catching passes from Rudolph.

Wilson is entering his 13th season in the NFL as a starter, so he also has the veteran experience of knowing how to build healthy relationships with new teammates.

Freiermuth’s usage in former Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s offense was often criticized, as he didn’t see many targets. When he was targeted, it was typically for short gains with very limited big-play appeal.  Roethlisberger publicly voiced his frustration with Freiermuth’s lack of involvement in the offense last season.

But the fourth-year tight end should be set up for more success under new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, especially with an experienced Super Bowl-winning quarterback like Wilson.

Smith had his two best seasons as the O.C. for the Tennessee Titans back in 2019 and 2020, but he never had a tight end with the same level of talent as Freiermuth.  The former Atlanta Falcon head coach now has a tight end with a higher ceiling than he ever had during his time with Tennessee.  In his first two seasons with the Steelers Freiermuth compiled an impressive 123 receptions for 1229 yards and nine touchdowns.  By all accounts, teaming up with Smith this year should have a very positive impact on his productivity.

Of course most big receiving targets who have been on the other end of Russell Wilson’s throws have seen huge productivity.

The former Seattle Seahawk and Denver Bronco who signed a one-year deal with the Steelers a few weeks ago, is the headliner of a revamped quarterback room, that includes the aforementioned Fields, who’s overall record, 10-28 in Chicago while not very impressive, does have some eye-popping video game-like highlights on his personal sizzle reel that he amassed from his three years in the Windy City.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin recently said that Wilson was in a “pole” position to be the starting QB for the 2024 season.

But it’s not such a bad thing to have the second in line on the QB depth chart to bring to the table a strong arm, lots of dynamic mobility, and a good deal of starting quarterback experience.

Freiermuth is not the kind of guy to put others down with his words but if you can read between the lines, he can barely contain his excitement over the change of his environment in the Steel City.

As Freiermuth prepares for his fourth season, the tight end revealed that he would like to remain in Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future.

“I want to be in Pittsburgh for the rest of my career,” Freiermuth said. “Hopefully, it shakes out that way. I want to continue to play for Pittsburgh because it reminds me of where I’m from and how I was raised. Growing up and going through the hard times and good times together. I feel like the Pittsburgh media and fanbase and everyone kind of does that together. I feel very at peace and very comfortable here.”

MORE: Why Penn State’s Chop Robinson is Soaring up NFL Draft Boards

Pat Freiermuth
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