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Vance McDonald retired last week, which leaves the Steelers with just Eric Ebron as a legit option at tight end. Ebron is a good route runner and is the most productive tight end the Steelers have had since Heath Miller retired after the 2015 season. Ebron had 56 receptions for 558 yards and five touchdowns in his first year with the Steelers. However, drops were an issue at times and he's never been known to be an elite blocker. Ebron turns 28 in April and is a serviceable tight end, but the Steelers need to draft a tight end that's efficient in running routes and creating separation, but at the same time being a dominant run blocker.
Flordia's Kyle Pitts, Miami's Brevin Jordan and Penn State's Pat Freiermuth are considered as the top three tight ends in this year's draft. Pitts most likely will be off the board when the Steelers pick at 24th overall and tight end isn't their biggest need. It's without a doubt offensive line. They should go either center or offensive tackle in the first round with Maurkice Pouncey expected to retire and Alejandro Villanueva being a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent. There's also a possibility that Villanueva might just retire. Running back is also a need for the Steelers, but they can address that later in the draft. They need a top-tier tight end and getting Freiermuth in the second round would be a terrific value pick.
Freiermuth 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.
Freiermuth stands at 6-foot-5, 258 pounds, which is the perfect size for an NFL tight end. As noted, he can cause damage both in the passing game and run game. Which has been an issue for Steelers' tight ends in recent years, as they excel in just one area. Vance McDonald was a complete tight end for a few years, but he wasn't as productive the last two seasons.
Freiermuth still needs some fine-tuning when it comes to his route running and run blocking, but one of his biggest attributes is his physicalness and want to. With some coaching and development, Freiermuth will only get better with the effort and willingness he displays when playing the game. Look at the 100 percent effort Freiermuth gives on plays in the video below.
Here's Freiermuth going down the seam and bullying his way into the end zone for a score against Michigan State in 2019, a game in which Freiermuth had five receptions for 60 yards (12.0 average) and a career-high three touchdowns.
In his sophomore season, Freiermuth had a breakout year compiling 43 receptions for 507 yards and seven touchdowns. Freiermuth earned All-Conference and All-American recognition following his second year with the program.
In 2020, Freiermuth was looking to build off his sophomore campaign, but Penn State didn't have stellar quarterback play and Freiermuth only played four games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery. In those four games, Freiermuth recorded 23 receptions for 310 yards and a touchdown, averaging 74.2 yards per game.
Despite playing only four games this past season, Friermuth was named the Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year, becoming the first-ever Penn State tight end to win the award. He also earned first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and second-team All-Big Ten by the media.
Freiermuth is projected to be drafted early-to-middle in Round 2. The Steelers might have to trade up for Freiermuth if they really covet him.