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James Franklin on Pat Freiermuth: 'Where he made a killing for us was in the red zone'

Updated: May 25, 2021

(Photo by Scott Taelsch/Getty Images)

Penn State head coach James Franklin recently spoke with Missi Matthews of about Steelers' third-round pick Pat Freiermuth 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."

Franklin wasn't kidding when he said that Freiermuth made a killing for them at Penn State when in the red zone. 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 fits the bill in both categories.

"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."

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