The transition from the collegiate level to the NFL is hard, but it’s especially hard for tight ends who have a lot more on their plate to learn.
“You got to give him credit, give his parents credit. We did all the work pre-draft with Kyle, he’s certainly more mature than I was at 20,” Smith told reporters on Wednesday.
“He’s not a kid. He’s a man.”
There’s a lot of pressure on Pitts this year as the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, but it looks like he’s on the right track to living up to those high expectations the coaches have for him.
“He’s coming along,” Smith said. “An easy way to say it, he’s right where he needs to be. That’s the best way to answer it.”
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Arthur Smith Is ‘Overall Pleased’ With 2021 Draft Class
It’s not often you see rookie tight ends posting Pro Bowl or All-Pro season because to be a well-rounded tight end, you’re having to perfect your running routes and catching passes along with your run blocking skills.
Smith’s focus isn’t on getting Pitts to post some “wowing” numbers, it’s on guiding him and the other rookies as they adjust to a high level of ball.
“It’s not going to be perfect for him (Pitts),” Smith said. “It’s a foreign environment. Obviously, the competition’s – everybody’s pretty good in the NFL, the guys that play on Sundays, and you want to see how they adapt and it’s not overreacting, keeping the big picture in sight, and you want to make sure that they’re improving, and they’re not just all of a sudden reaching a point where you’re getting diminishing returns … Overall with this class, I’m pleased.”
The Falcons take on the Tennessee Titans in their first preseason matchup on Friday night and we’ll get to see a lot of the top rookies make their first NFL debut. Pitts is currently listed on the first unofficial depth chart behind Hayden Hurst, but that’s subject to change as he keeps fighting for the starting job.
TE George Kittle Expects a Breakout Season From Pitts
Despite the challenge of transitioning to the NFL, 49ers star tight end George Kittle expected Pitts to have a breakout season with the help of everyone around him.
“I think Pitts is going to have a breakout season regardless, just because he’s in a great system. You’ve got a vet quarterback, you’ve got Calvin Ridley on the outside. Then you’ve got Hayden Hurst––those boys are going to be just fine.” Kittle told Heavy.
In just eight games last season, Pitts reeled in 43 catches for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns. Now, he’ll get a chance to show why he should have been the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick and he’s been turning to the names the Kittle mentioned above for help.
“There have been a bunch of guys I got to for tips and details, like Hayden, Lee, Calvin [Ridley] and [Russell Gage],” Pitts said. “They all bring a different flavor to things, and I try to take everything and use it to help me be the best player I can be.”