Steelers Pat Freiermuth quickly becoming one of the best tight ends in NFL

Pat Freiermuth #88 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Pat Freiermuth #88 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

It’s a great era for tight ends in the NFL, but here’s why Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Pat Freiermuth is inserting his name into the discussion as one of the best in the league.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had trouble consistently moving the football against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. Though their offense was far from efficient, one player really stood above the rest: rookie tight end, Pat Freiermuth.

After going back and grinding the film following Pittsburgh’s 29-27 win, it was evident just how big Freiermuth was for this team in prime-time action. The talented rookie hauled in all five catchable targets for 43 yards and two very impressive touchdowns. His chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger is really taking form and his ability to effortlessly pull the ball down in traffic reminds fans of a young Heath Miller.

However, his receiving ability is far from the only thing that has made him so impressive early on. In addition to catching nearly every target in his direction (27 of 33, to be exact), Freiermuth has been an incredible run blocker this year — particularly in space. When on the move, the big tight end uses his speed to get out in front of the runner and power to destroy linebackers and defensive backs in the open field.

Though his first 8 career games (4 starts), Freiermuth has earned the 6th-highest overall grade among tight ends on the season, according to Pro Football Focus. His score of 80.6 tops players like Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and T.J. Hockenson.

With his remarkable progression this year, how many tight ends in the NFL would be better than Freiermuth moving forward?

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If we are talking about just the 2021 season, there are obviously still a handful of tight ends I would take over Freiermuth. George Kittle has still been very impressive despite his lengthy injury history, while players like Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, Mark Andrews, and Dallas Goedert have been very good for their teams this season.

However, if we are looking at this from a ‘big-picture’ standpoint, how many tight ends would you take over Pat Freiermuth for the remainder of their careers?… I’m willing to bet there are far fewer.

Considering that Freiermuth just turned 23 years old in October, he could have a decade of very good football left in the tank. Whereas players like Kelce (age 32), Waller (29), and Kittle (28) have already reached their prime years and all three may have possibly already played their best football.

The discussion gets challenging when comparing Freiermuth to the other great young talent at the tight end position around the NFL. Kyle Pitts (age 21) is a generational prospect who has really started to break out in recent weeks. He’s one I would take over Pat.

It would also be hard to choose between other young, impressive tight ends like Mark Andrews (25), Dalton Schultz, T.J. Hockenson (24), Mike Gesicki (26), and Cole Kmet (22).

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Somewhere down the line when we look back on this, I’m willing to bet that we would take Pat Freiermuth over many of these talented names mentioned. I know he’s a rookie and still has a lot to prove, but the combination of his receiving and blocking ability combined with his youth make me believe he could be one of the best tight ends in the NFL for a very long time.