PITTSBURGH — Pat Freiermuth had a strong first day of minicamp with the Steelers at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex Tuesday. He confirmed to Steelers Now that he caught two touchdown passes from Mitch Trubisky in the red zone during team drills. But when you talk to Freiermuth, he doesn’t make much of success in practice or the success from last year.
“It feels good,” Freiermuth said when asked about the day’s drills. “Obviously, Coach T(omlin) says it all the time; It’s football-light, not real football. So I think I’m building a good foundation right now, but I have to continue to work.”
Touchdown receptions aren’t new to Freiermuth in the NFL. His seven touchdowns was the sixth-most of NFL tight ends in his rookie season. But now he has to find ways to improve his skills to be a more consistent target for his quarterback, whoever that might be. A big focus for Freiermuth in his second season is about becoming more of a security option in the Steelers’ offense.
“Being there for the quarterback more,” Freiermuth said when asked what he’s focused on in practice. “I have to be on my Ps and Qs and make sure I’m looking out for my quarterback. I have to showcase on film that I can be that guy.”
Freiermuth does recognize he also has to improve his blocking. Last week, Pittsburgh Sports Now focused a Sights and Sounds entry on Mike Tomlin working with the tight ends during blocking drills:
Tomlin pushing Freiermuth is what he likes most about his head coach. The second-year tight end from Penn State could be on his way to being a top-five tight end, but Tomlin finds ways to push him even more.
“He’s a great guy,” Freiermuth said about Tomlin. “He’s never satisfied with the player that you are and he’s always going to find things he can critique and coach you on. That’s what makes him a great coach.”
Beyond being better on the field, Freiermuth also wants to grow as a leader in a young Steelers offense. Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement leaves a vacancy in an experienced, established veteran playmaker for the unit.
Najee Harris also addressed becoming a leader Tuesday along with several other statements about his approach to a second season. He also mentioned Freiermuth as being a player who would step up in leadership. As the Steelers’ first and second round picks of the 2021 NFL Draft, that’s a responsibility that could fall on their shoulders sooner rather than later.
And Freiermuth has been thinking the same way.
“A little bit,” Freiermuth said about talking leadership with Harris. “We’re still trying to find our roles as leaders. It’s only year two, so you don’t want to be too vocal. We’ll obviously defer to guys like Cam (Heyward) and T.J. (Watt), who’ve been here for a while. But on offense we have to find our voices. It’s a more of collective group than an individual thing.”
The Steelers have several new faces across the offense with Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett at quarterback, George Pickens and Calvin Austin III at wide receiver, and James Daniels with Mason Cole on the offensive line. But Harris and Freiermuth represent the mainstays who had strong showings last year.
If Freiermuth’s approach under Tomlin yields significant second-year results on the field, it would be another step in making the offense easier to integrate a new quarterback like Trubisky or Pickett.