Friday, January 13, 2023

Steelers’ Pat Freiermuth gives blunt opinion to rivals coach: ‘Don’t play for him’

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There are very few coaches in the NFL today who have the tenure and influence of Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. One of them is New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Tenure and clout aside, if you ask Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth, Belichick isn’t a coach he ever wants to play for — even if he is has won four more Super Bowls than Tomlin.

On the January 10 episode of Off the Field with Aditi Kinhabwala, the topic would be head coach Freiermuth want to play came up. Kinkhabwala noted that Freiermuth grew up in New England — which made Belichick an obvious choice.

“I won’t lie, I wouldn’t want to play for Coach Belichick,” Freiermuth admitted quickly.

“I’ve heard some of the stories,” he continued without offering details, only to say, “I’m fine with not playing for him.”

Freiermuth eventually answered Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills.

Podcast host, Said Kinkhabwala (hence the “with Aditi” part) was quick to add context as an NFL reporter tweeted two quotes from the interview.

replied Kinkhabwala, “It was a silly conversation about an alternate universe. One that included what position Pat would play if not TE. I said I want to play for John Harbaugh, I want my son to play for Doug Pederson and Bill Belichick only came because I raised him. Pat wasn’t kidding anyone!”

But Freiermuth says “he heard stories” isn’t exactly a gold star on Belichick’s name. Not that he needs one — his work speaks for itself — but the Steelers’ tight end does was a dig at the 70-year-old coach. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with Freiermuth declaring he wouldn’t want to play for Belichick. Not all players want it. The Patriot Way isn’t for everyone.

Though Freiermuth said he wouldn’t want to play for Belichick, the Patriots head coach offered the New England media an enthusiastic scouting account of the Boston native during his Sept. 14 preview press conference.

“Good player. Athletic boy, big aim, catches the ball well, competitive blocker. He’s a good size and can cover some people at the end of the line of scrimmage. He did a good job for them. Had a couple of great games last week (at Cincinnati).

Not that Belichick would say anything bad about an opposing player in front of the press. He’s not the bulletin board type.

But that’s okay. It goes without saying that Freiermuth likes playing for Tomlin. After all, Tomlin is the coach most players want to play for. He’s a player’s coach, for better or for worse.

Oh, and he smiles more.

Pat Freiermuth was immersed in the New England Patriots growing up. Like the kids of western Pennsylvania in the 1970s, a 2000s kid who hailed from New England meant you ate, slept, and drank patriots. After all, the first decades of the Aughts were under the rule of the Patriots and their star quarterback, Tom Brady.

Freiermuth couldn’t avoid comparisons to then-Patriots star Rob Gronkowski in high school. With that, he was dubbed “Baby Gronk” for obvious reasons.

It followed him to Penn State where he donned No. 87. A tight end with No. 87 and a similar frame — Gronkonkowski at 6ft 6, 268lbs and Freiermuth at 6ft 5, 251lbs) and playing like Gronkowski begs for comparison.

“It’s cool to be compared to (Rob Gronkowski), but I’m nowhere near where he is,” Freiermuth said in a 2019 interview with the Boston Herald.

The Baby Gronk moniker that has haunted him for a decade is one that Freiermuth was keen to get rid of when he joined the NFL.

“I hate it because I find it quite annoying,” laughed Freiermuth Interview May 2021 with Steeler’s media. “I’m trying to get away from that nickname. I don’t want to be called that,” he said with a smile and a wave of his hand.

Freiermuth couldn’t avoid comparisons to then-Patriots star Rob Gronkowski in high school. With that, he was dubbed “Baby Gronk” for obvious reasons.



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