Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had one of the most celebrated connections in team history with tight end Heath Miller, the two of them spending 11 years playing together. The two combined for 612 all-time completions for 6720 yards and 45 touchdowns, between the regular season and the postseason, with a 104.1 quarterback rating.
Now retired, Roethlisberger sees a parallel connection budding between first-year quarterback Kenny Pickett and second-year tight end Pat Freiermuth. The first thing he was ever told about Freiermuth when he was drafted in Roethlisberger’s final season was that he’s “the closest thing to Heath Miller”.
Freiermuth caught 60 passes during his rookie season for 497 yards and seven touchdowns. Although he didn’t find the end zone as often this past year, he took a step forward in moving the ball more, picking up 732 yards and 63 catches. He wants to see that continue to grow with Pickett the way he had that with Miller.
“I’d like to see Pat get more involved”, he said earlier this week on the DVE Morning Show. “It felt like Pat got involved really heavily at the end of games when you needed him the most. Those last couple games it was like Kenny would kind of scramble and find—I was about to say Heath—find Muth. It felt so flashbacky. But you find him and you make plays”.
While it became common for fans to chant Miller’s name whenever another tight end caught a pass, Freiermuth is the first one who got his own name called—or at least the part of it most easily turned into a monosyllabic cheer: MUUUTH.
Freiermuth did catch more than a third of his passes in 2022 in the fourth quarter or overtime, so there is some credence to Roethlisberger’s observation that Pickett (and earlier Mitch Trubisky) was finding him more “when you needed him most”.
That’s also situational, of course. Pickett looked Freiermuth’s way 24 times on third and fourth down, completing 15 of them for 204 yards and 10 first downs. The only person he looked for and found more often on possession downs was fellow rookie George Pickens, with whom he went 17-for-25 for 283 yards, two touchdowns, and 14 first downs.
There is still room for both Pickens and Freiermuth to have an even bigger role in the Steelers’ passing game moving forward. That’s what a huge portion of this offseason is going to be dedicated to, working to build that rapport between the young quarterback and his young targets. There’s already a lot of good. It can be great.