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Mike Tomlin Explains Reduced Usage for Pat Freiermuth



Steelers TEs Zach Gentry, Pat Freiermuth

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth has been dealing with a foot injury, head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday, which explains his limited in-game reps recently.

Freiermuth played a season-low 31 snaps in the Steelers’ Week 14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Unlike in Week 13 at the Atlanta Falcons, when Zach Gentry out-snapped Freiermuth, he was still the team’s most-used tight end against Baltimore, playing in 56% of the team’s offensive snaps. Among backs and receivers, only Diontae Johnson and George Pickens played more than Freiermuth did.

It seemed that Freiermuth was poised to become a bigger part of the Pittsburgh passing offense with the trade of Chase Claypool in November. But after a season-high eight catches in Week 11 against Cincinnati, Freiermuth has caught use three passes in each of his last three games. His 33 receiving yards against the Ravens was his third-lowest output of the season.

Despite that reduced role, he’s still been very productive. He bulldozed his way to a 57-yard catch and run against Atlanta, the longest offensive play of the season for the Steelers, and scored a late touchdown agains the Ravens.

Gentry has seen an expansion of his playing time, moving to over 50% of the team’s offensive snaps since Claypool’s trade, but has had only seven targets over the last five weeks. He dropped his only target on Sunday.

Freiermuth has not been limited in practice due to the injury, and it seems unlikely that he will miss a game unless he has a significant setback. Connor Heyward is the only other tight end on the Steelers’ active roster.

The team’s second-round pick out of Penn State in the 2021 NFL Draft, Freiermuth is fourth in the NFL with 630 receiving yards as a tight end, behind Travis Kelce, T.J. Hockenson and Mark Andrews.