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CBS Sports Ranks Pat Freiermuth 14th-Best TE in NFL

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Pittsburgh Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth’s 2023 season is one he wants to forget. He had a nagging hamstring injury that sidelined him for five games, Matt Canada’s offense rarely utilized the middle of the field, and the quarterback play was horrendous. Freiermuth ended up posting career lows in receptions (32) and yards (308).

Freiermuth’s down season in 2023 played a big part in why he was ranked the 14th-best tight end in the NFL by Jared Dublin of CBS Sports.

“Freiermuth missed a few games due to injury but even when healthy he took a step backward, along with the rest of Pittsburgh’s offense last season. He posted career lows in receptions and yards per game, as well as success rate on those catches, and his yards per reception average dropped 2 full yards from 2022 to 2023,” Dublin wrote. “He’s going to move up the pecking order in the passing game this year, though, and in a more functional offense should be able to tap back into what made him effective during his first two NFL seasons. Hopefully.”

Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth lines up during OTAs on June 11, 2024. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

In the first game after Canada was fired in Week 12 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Freiermuth exploded with nine receptions on 11 targets for 120 yards. Due to the instability at quarterback, Freiermuth didn’t have another breakout game in 2023, but the potential is there.

New Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith could be just what Freiermuth needs to take his game to new heights, which is a contract year for the Penn State product. Last season with the Atlanta Falcons, where Smith was the head coach, tight ends Kyle Pitts and Jonnu Smith were second and fourth on the team in targets.

Brooke Pryor of ESPN named Pat Freiermuth as a player who surprised the most at minicamp/OTAs. She thinks it could be a breakout year for him, especially with Smith now serving as the play-caller.

“Arthur Smith’s offense is a tight end’s dream, and it’s already waking up Freiermuth from a nightmare of a 2023 season,” Pryor wrote. “Hampered by a nagging hamstring injury and playing in a disjointed offense, Freiermuth had a career-low 32 catches for 308 yards, less than half of his output from 2022. But the 2021 second-round pick is poised for a resurgence with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator, and he showed early signs of good chemistry with quarterback Russell Wilson through offseason workouts. The Steelers don’t have a solid WR2 option, but that might not matter as much if Freiermuth continues on the kind of upward trajectory he established this offseason.”

Freiermuth expects little to change with the tight end’s usage from previous Smith offenses. He watched a ton of Kyle Pitts tape in preparing for his new role. Freiermuth believes that the Steelers will work him all around the formation, from out wide to in the slot to in-line, and it should accentuate his skills.

“See, when Jonnu was in Tennessee, even last year, really, Kyle, all the times that he’s had even Delanie Walker, he started using cool stuff,” Freiermuth said of Smith.” And he’s had a lot of great tight ends. And early on. It’s been two days, and early on, just seeing the flexibility where I can line up. It’s been awesome.”

Freiermuth revealed during OTAs that Smith has expanded his route tree.

“Slants, digs, and all that, I’m running it,” Freiermuth said. “Yeah. Yeah. It’s been awesome to add that, that full route tree to my repertoire. And you know, it’s been great. It’s been fun. Everything’s been great.”

Nick Farabaugh contributed reporting from Pittsburgh.

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