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MyCole Pruitt: ‘Tight End Friendly’ Offense Will Improve Steelers Red Zone Efficiency

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Pittsburgh Steelers TE MyCole Pruitt

The Atlanta to Pittsburgh pipeline was established this offseason when the Steelers hired former Falcons head coach Arthur Smith to be the team’s next offensive coordinator. Smith then brought a handful of players with him to the Steel City. One of those guys is veteran tight end MyCole Pruitt.

Pruitt, who is entering his tenth professional season, has been apart Smith’s offense for six seasons now. Pruitt started playing for Smith in Tennessee and followed him to Atlanta when Smith got his head coaching gig. Now, the two are together again in Pittsburgh. A reason that Pruitt keeps following Smith is because of tight end friendly it is.

“This is a tight end friendly offense, I would say,” Pruitt said. “We use a lot of personnels that use two, three, sometimes even four tight ends in the game at one time. It allows us to find mismatches out there on the field whether it would be someone smaller than us or someone that just can’t keep up with us. Like I said, it is a friendly offense and I have been in it for six years now so I am really comfortable with it. I am able to pass on some of my knowledge onto the that are just now learning the offense and as a vet, I take that role in stride.”

While Pruitt has never been a volume receiver while in the NFL, he excels in other aspects of the game, one of which is run blocking. With that being his strength, another thing that Pruitt is looking to excel at is helping the other tight ends pick up on the offense and its intricacies.

“[The offense] is something that has a learning curve for some of the guys that didn’t do it last year as much,” Pruitt said. “Like I said, whatever knowledge I can pass on, I am ready and willing to do that.”

Smith has always kept a loaded tight end room and his room in Pittsburgh is no different. With guys like Pruitt, Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington and Connor Heyward that all can see realistic offensive snaps in 2024, Pruitt expects Smith to use them to the best of his advantage. He stated that having so many weapons at tight end is a threat to opposing defenses because it changes the look up consistently.

“It just keeps the defense on their toes,” Pruitt said. “They never know where we will be attacking them from, what angle we are going to come at… Having versatility in the tight end room is a big key to that.”

One area that the team has struggled in over the last few seasons was red zone efficiency. Last season, the Steelers finished ranked 25th (48.89%) in regard to scoring touchdowns when inside of the red zone. Pruitt stated under Smith’s guidance and with his deployment of multiple tight ends, that is one area that the team is looking to improve in during the 2024 season.

“It is just a lot of different things that we can do with this type of personnel, especially in the red zone,” Pruitt said. “That is where we want to thrive the most at so we are hoping to take a big step in that area.”

Regardless, Pruitt is log-jammed in the tight end room. While he will have the edge over a guy like Rodney Williams to make the team, Freiermuth’s and Washington’s spots are secured which will create a competition between Pruitt and Heyward for the last spot. That is, of course, unless the team shifts Heyward into more of a fullback role this season.

81 • MyCole Pruitt, Tight End, Southern Illinois
6-foot-2, 258 pounds, 32 years old, 10th Season

Acquired: The Steelers signed MyCole Pruitt to a one-year deal to follow his former head coach and offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to Pittsburgh.

Last SeasonIn his second season as a Falcon, Pruitt played in a backup-blocking role behind Kyle Pitts. Finishing with just nine receptions in 2023, Pruitt made his money blocking for Bijan Robinson. His blocking has helped him stay in the league for nine seasons.

CareerThe Minnesota Vikings drafted Pruitt in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Pruitt saw little playing time during the first few weeks of his rookie season. By midseason, Pruitt was filling in for the injured starter and he played a season-high 28 offensive snaps against the Bears.

The following season, the Vikings decided to part ways with Pruitt and he was signed to the Bears active roster. Playing in one game for the Bears in 2016, Pruitt failed to make their final roster the following season.

Pruitt failed to find a consistent home until the 2018 season when he signed with Tennessee. In 2018, Pruitt played in his most games since his rookie season and found success in their offensive scheme. In 15 games played, Pruitt hauled in nine passes for 102 yards and one touchdown.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Atlanta Falcons tight end MyCole Pruitt (85) during an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

The next two seasons would unfold very similarly to his first in Tennessee with around 10 catches for the season.

In 2021, Pruitt caught 14 balls for 145 yards and three scores. He followed that up during his first season in Atlanta with a career-high 16 receptions for 150 yards and four touchdowns.

Over his first nine NFL seasons, Pruitt has played in 109 games and has caught 71 passes for 748 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Year Team GP Receptions Yards AVG TDs PFF Rating
2015 MIN 16 10 89 8.9 0 64.4
2016 MIN 2 1 7 7.0 0 52.9
2016 CHI 2 1 6 6.0 0
2017 HOU 1 0 0 0.0 0
2018 TEN 15 9 102 11.3 1 80.6
2019 TEN 16 6 90 15.0 1 61.5
2020 TEN 11 5 49 9.8 2 72.1
2021 TEN 16 14 145 10.4 3 71.5
2022 ATL 13 16 150 9.4 4 75.9
2023 ATL 17 9 110 12.2 1 59.4

CollegeMyCole Pruitt played his college ball at Southern Illinois University. As a freshman, Pruitt received a redshirt during his first season on campus. In 2011, Pruitt broke onto the scene for the Salukis’ as he posted a team-high in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. In eight starts and eleven total appearances, Pruitt hauled in 43 receptions for 562 yards and three touchdowns.

Pruitt followed his impressive first season up with an equally as impressive second season. He led the team in receptions (49), receiving yards (562) and receiving touchdowns (4) for the second consecutive season. His third season went similar to his first two and then in his final collegiate season, Pruitt exploded onto the scene in a big way.

In 2014, Pruitt hauled in 81 passes for 861 yards and 13 receiving touchdowns. His 81 receptions led the conference and set a school-record. Pruitt earned All-American honors following his historic season.

In total, Pruitt played in 44 games for the Salukis and set the school record for receptions in a career with 221. Pruitt added 2,601 receiving yards and 25 receiving touchdowns.

Year GP Receptions Yards AVG TDs
2010 0 0 0 0 0
2011 11 43 562 13.1 3
2012 11 49 577 11.8 4
2013 10 48 601 12.5 5
2014 12 81 861 10.6 13

Salary cap and future: MyCole Pruitt signed a one-year, veteran minimum deal to sign with the Steelers. Pruitt will earn $1.21 million in total money if he remains on the roster all season but due to him signing for the veteran minimum, he will only cost $1.035 million against the team’s cap space. He will earn a $50,000 bonus if he remains on the roster.

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