The Pittsburgh Steelers will have some big changes at the tight end position for 2021, with veteran Vance McDonald retiring and second-round rookie Pat Freiermuth added to the mix.
The position room also has a new coach, with Alfredo Roberts joining the Steelers from the Los Angeles Chargers after the retirement of longtime coach James Daniel.
Roberts worked with Hunter Henry in Los Angeles, and sees a little bit of his former protege in his new one.
“I am excited to work with him,” Roberts said. “The energy he exudes, he is a serious but fun guy. He has some position flexibility. He will be kind of a throwback tight end because he can play the position and do some multiple things. You can flex him out. His positional flexibility is going to give us a chance to do a lot of different things and a lot of different sets with the guys that are already here.”
The Steelers already have a projected starter in Eric Ebron, but Roberts said Freiermuth is a very different kind of player that will bring a more varied skillset than Ebron’s receiving-slanted abilities.
“He can do some of the heavy lifting when we talk about getting in line and doing some things,” Roberts said. “He can also work from the backfield because he can bend well and move well in space. We can flex him out if need be. In big packages, he can do a number of different things. I just like what he adds right now and what he is going to grow into in the future.”
All of that being said, Roberts was quick to point out that any rookie is going to have some growing pains when they enter the league, and Freiermuth will be no exception to that.
“I think all guys, even the guys who I’ve worked with in the League for a while, still have some technique things they want to work on and work through,” Roberts said. “As he grows, he will be more efficient. Some of the things we are going to ask him to do, we are going to work at. I think he has some natural knee bending, some pad level that he does easily now. You just kind of situate those things that he does well and things that he needs to come on, we will find a way to get those things better.”
The Steelers will hope Freiermuth comes around quickly. Not only would that provide them another solid option in 2021, with Ebron’s contract set to expire at the end of the season, knowing how far along Freiermuth is will be important to the decision they have to make with their veteran tight end.