Updated: Aug 5
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
The Steelers addressed the tight end position early in the 2021 NFL Draft by selecting Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth in the second round. It's the earliest that the Steelers have picked a tight end since drafting Heath Miller in the first round in 2005.
Freiermuth was ranked as the second-best tight end in this year's class, just behind Kyle Pitts who went fourth overall. Freiermuth holds the record for career touchdowns for a Penn State tight end with 16 and it was in Happy Valley where he got the nickname "Baby Gronk."
Freiermuth is from Merrimac, Mass. and grew up a Patriots fan, so the nickname after Rob Gronkowski came naturally. He also knew all about the Steelers growing up since the Patriots regularly played the Steelers in big games.
"I know the Steelers have an unbelievable defense and that is something I am very excited for," Freiermuth told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. "I am excited to go out and compete against them every day in practice. And of course, Ben Roethlisberger. The rich history of the organization. I grew up a Patriots fan because I am from Boston. It was huge the times when we were playing the Steelers. Now being a part of the Steelers and knowing how big of a deal the organization is to everyone there is exciting."
Freiermuth is also familiar with the infamous "Jesse James game" against the Patriots in 2017 when Ben Roethlisberger connected with James for a 10-yard touchdown, with James going to the ground as he extended for the end zone. The call on the field initially was ruled a touchdown, but after a lengthy review, the call was overturned and ruled incomplete, as Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron felt that James didn't have complete possession of the ball. Two plays later, Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone, and the Steelers lost, 27-24. The play would promote a rule change in the offseason.
James is also a Penn State product and has talked about the play with Freiermuth when training together. And Freiermuth agrees that James got robbed.
"I do remember the play," Freiermuth laughed. "I personally do think Jesse caught the ball if we are being completely honest. Not just saying it because I am a Steeler now. But he did catch the ball. I worked out with him and we talked about that and he did catch it."