It’s no surprise that the Steelers’ run game has been atrocious. From the remains of an aging offensive line, lack of a run-blocking tight end, and a below-average backfield, it surprises no one that they were last in the league last year in rushing yards per game.
Although the line is in a tough shape, they have eight picks in which they must hit on down the board. Last year, the Steelers got a steal in the fourth round with Kevin Dotson. Although Dotson is a great start, the Steelers will need to replace center and tackle in the draft this year in order to have any sort of an offensive line.
The tight end has been a huge part of the Ben Roethlisberger system throughout his career. His most notable being Heath Miller, who was always there for a check-down or a tight end screen. He was Rothlisberger’s target down the middle of the field making it hard for the defense to cover everyone. But the least talked about part of Miller’s impact on the Steelers was his run blocking. A versatile tight end group is exactly what the Steelers need to improve the run game.
Pittsburgh is in Need of a Run-Blocking Tight End for the 2021 Season
Outside of Kyle Pitts, Freiermuth is considered the second-best tight end in the entire class. Out of Penn State, the 6’5”, 22-year-old tight end had a relatively below-average season in 2020, catching 23 receptions for 310-yards and only catching one touchdown. But considering all the problems with the Big 10 and their six-game season, 2018 and 2019 were better seasons for Freiermuth. He caught a total of 15 touchdowns in those two seasons while showing he can act as an extra offensive lineman in the run game.
Pat Freiermuth would add to a depleted tight end group of the Steelers who have nothing behind Eric Ebron after the retirement of Vance McDonald. Ebron was only effective for the Steelers in the passing game, despite the fact he had issues with drops as the season progressed. Freiermuth’s primary role in season one would be as a blocking tight end and then in season two he’d become the starter as Ebron’s contract is up after the 2021 season.
Freiermuth is slated as a second-round prospect which would be a tough pill for some fans to swallow as the Steelers have multiple, more pressing needs. But in the off chance that Pittsburgh trades back from 24, Freriermuth should become a bigger target for them.
The 6’4”, 20-year-old tight end would be a strong get for the Steelers in the later rounds. Outside of Kyle Pitts and Pat Freiermuth, it’s hard to predict where the next tight ends will be drafted. Tommy Tremble would be a perfect day three prospect for the Steelers to add to their tight end group. As mentioned before, the Steelers need to add a determined run-blocker at the tight end position. Tommy Tremble could be the perfect extension to the offensive line.
Tremble is a developmental tight end in the passing game for any team. At Notre Dame, he established himself as an effective run-blocking tight end. In two seasons at Notre Dame, he totaled 401 receiving yards on 35 receptions. Not a huge sample size, but he was mostly used as an extension of the offensive line. With his intangibles, he could become a positive player for any NFL team.
The Last Word on Run-Blocking Tight Ends
The Steelers need to improve their run game and the most underutilized position is a tight end on their current roster. As the draft progresses, they need to keep an eye on the run-blocking tight ends that are available as they look to improve their offense in the coming years. Although the tight end is underappreciated on most teams, they can be pivotal for turning an offense around.