Could the Steelers use their first-round pick on a tight end?

Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Pat Freiermuth (87). Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Pat Freiermuth (87). Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

Offensive tackle and running back are routinely mocked to the Steelers, but could Pittsburgh use their first-round pick on a tight end? 

We are less than two months from the NFL Draft, but nobody really has a clue where the Steelers will be going with the 24th overall pick. In the past, Pittsburgh has had one or two glaring needs entering April, but this year, there are a handful of positions in need of an instant starter.

Center now becomes one of their top priorities with Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement, but many are uncertain whether or not Alabama’s Landon Dickerson or Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey are worth the 24th overall pick in the draft. Humphrey is great in pass protection, but isn’t much of a run-blocker, while Dickerson had had multiple ACL injuries and is still recovering from his most recent tear.

Offensive tackle and running back are the most commonly mocked positions to the Steelers so far this offseason, and it’s not hard to see why. With Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler (who played right tackle in 2019) both likely leaving in free agency, the Steelers will need a lot of help at this position in 2021. Likewise, James Conner is set to hit the open market and Pittsburgh is in desperate need of an upgrade at running back.

However, nobody seems to be pointing to tight end as an option for the Steelers in round one. But should we?

Why tight end could be an option for Steelers at pick 24

A perfect scenario on draft day might be trading back to pick up additional draft selections, but this is something Pittsburgh rarely does. While it’s likely they could target an offensive lineman or running back in round one, I wouldn’t be so quick to rule out taking a tight end – specifically Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth.

While this may not be a spectacular year for tight ends, there is still some quality talent, but it will go fast. Kyle Pitts could very well end up being a top-10 pick this April, and it’s highly unlikely that Freiermuth could make it all the way back to Pittsburgh’s pick in round two.

Vance McDonald elected to retire this offseason, and Zach Gentry hasn’t done anything to even assure us that he is worthy of locking up a roster spot this year. This leaves Eric Ebron as the only viable option at the position for the Steelers. Unfortunately, there is a massive flaw in Ebron’s game: he can’t block. This is something that really got Pittsburgh in trouble last year, and was yet another factor as to why the running game was so inefficient.

Freiermuth is a do-it-all tight end much in the mold of Heath Miller. While he’s not a burner or a spectacular athlete, he is incredibly physical both at the catch point as a receiver and the point of attack as a blocker. He’s a traditional ‘Y’ tight end that can block inline and hold his own. Thanks to his size (6’5”, 258 pounds) he can easily box out linebackers and safeties over the middle of the field and he is a weapon in the red zone.

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I know this pick seems rich for a tight end, but this is one of the three weakest positions on the Steelers roster, and there could be a big drop in talent if they choose to wait until day-two to get their guy. This may not be the most likely scenario, but Freiermuth checks most of the boxes Pittsburgh looks for at the position, and he can’t be ruled out a pick 24.