PITTSBURGH — Pat Freiermuth had a successful rookie season by any standards, but he’s still focused on improvement in 2022, especially his blocking and in the red zone.
The rookie tight end put up 497 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns on 60 receptions. In a league where rookie tight ends are not often very productive their first year, Freiermuth was an outlier in that respect.
Heading into his second year, Freiermuth is looking outside of the stat sheet to improve. It is his blocking that Freiermuth is focusing on improving. While Freiermuth was by no means a bad blocker, he was a one-dimensional blocker. It was hard to trust Freiermuth to in-line block a bigger guy one-on-one, and so he was almost involved in split action or stalk blocking. Any time the Steelers needed a boost in tight end run blocking, Zach Gentry’s name was called upon.
Freiermuth, through the process of self-scouting, realized just what teams were keying in on throughout the season. In 2022, he is determined to learn how to do everything better from a blocking standpoint. Freiermuth admitted, from a strength and technical standpoint, that his in-line blocking was a project. Still, it is something he knows that he needs to do in order to take the next level leap.
“Specifically last year, I was doing a lot of the split flows,” Freiermuth said. “When I did all of that kinda stuff, teams would key in on that. This year I have to be able to be at the point of attack on outside zone, inside zone, and make sure that teams don’t key in on Zach going in where he’s going to be the point blocker and I’m off. So, I want to make sure we can switch it up.”
If Matt Canada is going to install his offense, Freiermuth will have to be a key blocking piece in that room. An uptick in 12 or even 13 personnel is not something that would come as a surprise. Those personnel groups are 2 tight end sets and 3 tight end sets. It is all about creating mismatches with heavier personnel that can run smash-mouth football or be an issue in the passing game. In order to successfully pull that off at a high level, Freiermuth’s blocking will be an important factor.
Those heavier sets could open up possibilities in the red zone, too, however. Freiermuth is not just looking to improve his blocking. He wants to become even more prosperous inside the redzone. At Steelers minicamp and OTAs, Freiermuth was great in those areas.
According to Player Profiler, Freiermuth had the most red zone targets in the entire NFL with 20. He caught 13 of those balls as well. All 7 of his touchdowns came in the redzone, the third-most in the NFL among tight ends only behind Hunter Henry and Mark Andrews. In the redzone with such a tight area to work with, contested catches will be important. Freiermuth’s contested catch rate stood at a crisp 50%, sixth-best in the NFL.
So, to say he was going to become even better in the redzone is a dicey, bold prediction. It is not one Freiermuth backs away from, though. In fact, Freiermuth is hoping to take an even bigger leap in the redzone this upcoming year. There were still two players above him in redzone touchdowns, and he would like to jump them.
“Yeah, I’m hoping I can take another leap here,” Freiermuth said. “Scoring touchdowns and all of that is great. It would be awesome to continue that success. I’d like to even get better in the redzone.”
As one of the best young tight ends in football, the Steelers will lean on Freiermuth to help whoever the quarterback is this season. If he can take a leap in both areas, Freiermuth will be the security blanket and chess piece the Steelers offense really needs.