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Pat Freiermuth Tabbed Most Surprising Player During Offseason

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

Last season with the Atlanta Falcons, where Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith was the head coach, tight ends Kyle Pitts and Jonnu Smith were second and fourth on the team in targets. Smith loves utilizing tight ends, so this could be a season where Pat Freiermuth takes his game to new heights. It’s also a contract year for the Penn State product.

Brooke Pryor of ESPN named Freiermuth as a player who surprised the most at minicamp/OTAs. She thinks it could be a banner year for him.

“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.”

Pittsburgh Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth catches a pass while offensive coordinator Arthur Smith looks on during OTAs on May 28, 2024. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

As Pryor alluded to, the 2023 season was just a mess for Freiermuth. 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 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.”

With Diontae Johnson in Carolina, the Steelers need receivers to step up and rise to the occasion. The wide receiver room is rather thin, though. That’s where Freiermuth could come into the picture.

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.