by Ryan Lang
Photo courtesy of San Diego Tribune.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers about to begin play in 2023, Draft 412 will review each position, its depth and potential.
Today, the Steelers' tight end group goes on the clock:
Pat Freiermuth - 6’5” 258 lbs.
The Steelers drafted Freiermuth in the 2nd round of the 2021 NFL draft and since then, he has been a bright spot for the Steelers on offense. He totaled 732 yards last year with 2 touchdowns despite dealing with a QB carousel and bad play calling. He is arguably a top 5 tight end in the league and has the potential to be a 1,000 yard receiver if used properly.
It is noteworthy to mention Freiermuth is only 24 and should continue to get better each year if multiple concussions do not derail his potential. He has the talent to be an all-pro player and gives Kenny Pickett an option on every down.
Zach Gentry - 6’8” 265 lbs.
Gentry was drafted back in 2019 in the 5th round by the Steelers. He's not used nearly as much as Freiermuth in the passing game and only has 39 career receptions, but he is an exceptional blocker who opens up holes in the running game. He uses his impressive height to his advantage and there aren't many guys in the league that the Steelers wouldn't line him up across to block. He is the best blocker of the group, but with Denzel Washington ascending, look for him to get less time.
Connor Heyward - 6’0” 230 lbs.
Heyward was drafted in the 6th round of the 2022 NFL draft and is the younger brother of Steelers star, Cameron Heyward. While he isn’t the biggest, fastest, strongest or flashiest, he always seems to come up with a big play. He finished last season with 151 yards and 1 touchdown, but he made the most of his limited time.
He also has the ability to play fullback and is the only active “FB” on the roster. He will likely get most of his playing time at fullback this year but is another option to use in various sets for the Steelers' offense.
Darnell Washington - 6’7” 264 lbs.
Washington was drafted this year in the 3rd round by the Steelers. Washington is as big as Gentry but runs a 4.6, and is a freak athlete for his size and frame. He’s got a ton of raw talent and shows the ability to make plays downfield along while being a force in run blocking. He is currently listed at TE #4 on the depth chart but will certainly make his way onto the field.
Rodney Williams - 6’4” 235 lbs.
Williams was signed to the Steelers' practice squad in September of last year. The Steelers have brought him back as a body and the most he can look forward to is being signed back to the practice squad for the upcoming season.
Draft 412 Analysis
This group has immense talent and versatility, and if used the right way, Freiermuth and Washington could become the league’s best TE tandem.