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How the Steelers Unlocked Pat Freiermuth vs. Bengals



Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth
Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth against the Cincinnati Bengals, Nov. 26, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

With offensive coordinator Matt Canada fired earlier this week, the Pittsburgh Steelers changed things up schematically. Finally, they targeted the middle of the field in their 16-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Tight end Pat Freiermuth played a huge part in the Steelers’ success over the middle, recording a team-high nine receptions for 120 yards (13.3 average). It’s Freiermuth’s first 100-yard game of his career.

“It was awesome to reach my first over 100-yard game, it’s been a thing that I’ve been striving for. My last one was in college, so it’s awesome,” Freiermuth said after the game.

According to Next Gen Stats, Pat Freiermuth was targeted on 11 of his 23 routes (47.8%), tied for the second-highest target rate by a tight end in a game this season (minimum 20 routes). Freiermuth gained +32 receiving yards over expected, the second-most in a game in his career. They saw the two-high looks the Bengals ran and ate against it.

“We knew what the were gonna do,” Freiermuth said. “Especially the coverage that they were playing, that’s where I eat.”

Freiermuth has faced a lot of adversity this year. Coupled with not being utilized under Canada, he missed six games due to a hamstring injury. Freiermuth returned to practice following the bye with plans to play in Week 7 against the Los Angeles Rams, but he re-aggravated the injury and was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 21.

“Yeah, obviously, a lot of adversity (this year). Didn’t start the way that I wanted to,” Freiermuth said. “Got rolling a little bit against the Raiders (in Week 3) and the hamstring came up. Hopefully just got to continue to stay healthy and build off this performance, especially as an offense. We got all our pieces together. We just got to keep going.”

For the first time in 58 regular-season games, the Steelers eclipsed 400 yards of offense. That goes the entire tenure of Canada’s stay as offensive coordinator. The Steelers will need to continue to attack the middle of the field if they want to sustain the upstart momentum with Eddie Faulkner and Mike Sullivan directing the offense. And the Pickett to Freiemuth connection plays a huge role in that.

“Just throughout the process, since he’s got here last year,” Freiermuth said about building a connection with Pickett. “We just got to continue it. Like I said, it wasn’t anything before. It was just more me staying healthy.”