James Franklin: ‘Pat Freiermuth Is The Complete Tight End’
Just like Pittsburgh Steelers fans around the country, Penn State football head coach James Franklin can’t stop gushing about Pat Freiermuth.
The former Penn State tight end joined the Steelers nearly one month ago as the No. 55 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Moving from Happy Valley to one of the NFL’s biggest football towns will likely be a tough adjustment for Freiermuth, but Franklin believes he’s got all the right pieces for a smooth transition.
“Pat loves football. I think there’s a lot of people nowadays that like football and like the things that come from football, [but] Pat loves the game,” Franklin told the Steelers’ media team this week. “He’s a guy that can get along with anybody in the locker room…He’s what I would describe as a culture driver. You can’t have enough guys like Pat in your locker room. He instantly, without making any plays on the field, makes your organization better just by the way he goes about his business.”
Franklin, a bona fide football guy, credited Freiermuth’s family for instilling his love of the game. He shouted out Freiermuth’s parents as well as his uncles, who are coaches.
Franklin didn’t shy away from lauding Freiermuth’s skills on the gridiron, either. In his interview with the team, he immediately credited Freiermuth’s two-way skills and production so far in his career.
“I think the biggest thing is in the passing game, he’s a contested-catch guy, which, you know, those, I think, are really valuable at that position,” Franklin said. “You look at some of the other tight ends or you look at some of the other matchup guys in the NFL, 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 on third down.”
Freiermuth’s red zone prowess also stood out to Franklin. In three seasons as one of the Nittany Lions’ most reliable targets, Freiermuth hauled in 16 touchdowns, good for the most scores as a tight end in program history.
Franklin reiterated that Freiermuth is, in essence, the complete tight end, largely thanks to his contributions in the run game when he’s not grabbing touchdowns.
“He embraces his complete role of being a tight end,” Franklin said. “I think there’s 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 limited in the run game. But Pat is a comprehensive, complete tight end that can do it all.”
Franklin also said Freiermuth’s versatility on the field should help him see more playing time and potentially serve as a nightmare matchup for opposing defenses.
“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 they’re really only using this guy as a wide receiver, then it’s not as difficult to defend,” Franklin said. “But when you’re a guy that can be lined up as a slot receiver and function in that role, but now they can motion back to gain a block or in the box, that’s where tight ends can become really important in your offense.”
Freiermuth wasn’t the only Nittany Lion on Franklin’s mind during his interview with the Steelers, though. He also touted safety Lamont Wade, whom Pittsburgh signed as an undrafted free agent immediately following the 2021 NFL Draft.
“Lamont’s been the guy that he is a ‘beat-the-odds’ [player] and has overcome adversity his entire life,” Franklin said. “He’s a survivor, and he’s going to find a way to be successful. He did it in high school, and he did it at Penn State, and it won’t surprise me if he does it for the Steelers as well.”
Freiermuth, Wade, and the rest of the Steelers will begin their season with a road trip to Buffalo on Sunday, September 12. Freiermuth will wear No. 88 in Pittsburgh after donning No. 87 in Happy Valley.
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