(Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)
The Steelers have all their receivers back from last year, but they did make an addition to the tight end room by selecting Pat Freiermuth out of Penn State in the second round of this year's draft.
Friermuth brings a different dimension to the Steelers' offense as a dual-threat tight end who can both catch and block, and the Penn State product should see the field right from the beginning.
"Pat's gonna be good, man, Pat's gonna be pretty good," Ebron told the media today after the final practice of the Steelers three-day mandatory minicamp. "It's hard to dictate what everyone looks like in shorts and helmets, because everyone looks good. But I'm excited to see him grow as a tight end. It's a lot of information we're throwing at him. It's a lot of different things he needs to know at this position.
"I'm just looking forward to see him grow, man. To me, he's just a smooth playmaker. He's silky smooth, he doesn't look like he's trying too hard and he's capable of a lot. He asks a lot of questions, which is good. He's really easy to talk to, which is cool. I look forward to seeing him grow in this league. It's gonna be fun to watch him."
Ebron also believes that the duo of him and Freiermuth will succeed in Matt Canada's offense.
"From the three days that I've been here, well, two, we've dominated," Ebron said. "And I say that with emphasis because I feel like our room is pretty good and I feel like we should carry a lot of stress upon our room to be great every week because we're very capable of that, especially in Canada's offense."
Freiermuth stands at 6-foot-5, 258 pounds, which is the perfect size for an NFL tight end. He appeared in 30 career games and made 26 starts at Penn State, along with being a two-time team captain. Friermuth owns the record for Penn State career touchdown receptions by a tight end with 16, passing Mike Gesicki (15; 2014-17). In addition, he had 92 receptions for 1,185 yards in his career and had a reception in 29-straight games, dating back to the Pitt game on Sept. 8, 2018, which is a school-record among tight ends. Freiermuth frequently made explosive plays as well with 19 career receptions of 20 or more yards during his time at Penn State.
Penn State head coach James Franklin raved about his former tight end's dominance in the red zone when he spoke with Missi Matthews of Steelers.com last month.
"Pat's going to be the guy that he's going to have his production just being that unbelievably reliable guy for Ben (Roethlisberger) or whoever it may be to go to on third down or as a second outlet," Franklin said. "Where he made a killing for us was in the red zone. He just made so many plays and so many contested catches and was just so productive."
Franklin wasn't joking when he said that Freiermuth was dominant in the red zone at Penn State. According to Pro Football Focus, Freiermuth was the highest-graded power five tight end in the red zone last season with a grading of (86.8). Freiermuth also didn't drop a single pass in the red zone in three seasons at Penn State, which means he had 19 receptions for 199 yards and 13 touchdowns without a single drop in the red zone during his tenure in State College.
Minus Vance McDonald when he was healthy, which wasn't often, the Steelers haven't had a dual-threat tight end who's a talented pass-catcher and run blocker since Heath Miller retired following the 2015 season. It's often difficult to find a tight end that can do both in today's game, but Freiermuth is efficient in both areas.
"He embraces his complete role of being a tight end," Franklin said of Freiermuth. "I think there are some tight ends out there that are extremely physical in the run game but are limited in the pass game. There's guys that are really good in the pass game but are limited in the run game. Pat is more of a comprehensive complete tight end that could do it all, and I think that becomes fun as an offensive coordinator because if you're a tight end that's really just a run guy or really just a pass guy, everybody talks about creating matchups with the tight end, but if you know that they're really only using this guy as another offensive lineman or really only using this guy as a wide receiver, it's not as difficult to defend. But when you're a guy that can be lined up as a slot receiver and function in that role, but now also they can motion him back to gain a blocker in the box, that's where tight ends can become really important in your offense."