(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Heath Miller retired in February of 2016, and it appears now that the Steelers have finally got Miller's true replacement. That being second-round pick Pat Freiermuth, who caught two touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisberger in the red zone against the Lions on Saturday night.
Roethlisberger, who rarely praises rookies, even indicated that Freiermuth reminds him of the great No. 83 after Saturday night's game.
"He’s doing good. Let’s not talk about him too much. He works hard. He’s a Steeler," Roethlisberger said. "He reminds me of another tight end we had here."
Freiermuth said that he's trying to make his own name in Pittsburgh, but he and Roethlisberger do watch tape of Miller.
"I hear it a lot. Obviously, me and (Roethlisberger) have watched tape a little bit, just stuff that he has done," Freiermuth said. "I’m trying to make my own name here. He was an unbelievable tight end here. It’s going to he hard to follow in his footsteps. I’m going to try to emulate his game. We’re very similar in game style."
Freiermuth displayed great hands and body control on both touchdown receptions against the Lions. And it's been reported that Freiermuth had no drops in training camp, which is no different than what he did 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.
Penn State head coach James Franklin spoke with Missi Matthews of Steelers.com about Freiermuth in May and raved about his former tight end's dominance in the red zone.
"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."
Freiermuth still has to improve as a blocker, Miller was more advanced in that area as a rookie, but his receiving and route-running abilities are truly amazing. It's his sure-hands that are so reminiscent of Miller, along with being a big red zone target. If not already, Freiermuth deserves to be TE1 this year. Eric Ebron is just too inconsistent, and Freiermuth is already a better blocker than him. The Steelers have a special talent in Freiermuth. Something that they haven't had since Miller retired following the 2015 season.