It’s time for the Pittsburgh Steelers Sophomore Spotlight Series. During this series we’ll be taking a look at Pittsburgh’s second year players to determine their standing with the team, what their role might be in 2022-23, and how big of an impact they can have in year two.
Pat Freiermuth – Tight End
2021-22 Season Review
The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Pat Freiermuth in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Similarly to Najee Harris the ties to Pat Freiermuth were strong coming from Penn State, and his relationship with Tight Ends Coach Alfredo Roberts.
Freiermuth had a strong rookie season with 60 receptions and seven touchdowns. And while Pittsburgh can say they found their TE1, it didn’t happen from the jump. Freiermuth shared time with Eric Ebron to start the season. He didn’t log more than 60 percent of offensive snaps until Week 7. But great hands and good route running made him a secure target for Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The connection between Roethlisberger and Pat Freiermuth was evident early on, and speaks to the tight end’s reliability.
Freiermuth was 12th among tight ends in receptions, 16th in targets, 19th in yards and sixth in touchdowns. The last tight end to be in the top 20 in all categories during their rookie year was Evan Engram in 2017.
2022-23 Season Outlook
What can we expect from Pat Freiermuth in 2022? It’s hard to tell for certain with the change in quarterback. One thing we can say for sure is that he’ll be the team’s TE1 from the start, and he’ll be the best option to take over the tough short-yardage plays previously made by JuJu Smith-Schuster. JuJu was always the guy who got the tough yards over the middle or made the plays on third down, until his injury last season. Pittsburgh couldn’t find that guy to replace him until Freiermuth found himself in the role late in the season.
Tight end is usually a position that sees an uptick in year two. Some guys I didn’t mention above when talking about rookie tight ends – George Kittle, Jonnu Smith, Mark Andrews, Mike Gesicki – have gone on to put up pretty gaudy numbers post rookie year. Names like Dallas Goedert, Dalton Schultz, T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant have had good seasons so far in their careers as well.
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky is the likely starter to begin the season. In this three years as the starter with the Chicago Bears, there was only one year he went to his tight end often. That was in 2018 (Trubisky’s and Chicago’s best season) with Tight End Trey Burton. Burton had 54 catches for 569 yards and six TDs. No other season came close to that production, however.
How Trubisky’s player preferences mesh with the Steelers offense will be interesting to watch. With a lot of rollouts and plays in the middle likely coming this year there could be more opportunities for Freiermuth. So the outlook for Pat Freiermuth? Everything points towards him having an even better year. We’ll just have to wait and see how he is utilized.
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