Pat Freiermuth had a breakout season last year, posting 732 receiving yards in his second year. That catapulted him into top ten tight end consideration, and with the waves of tight end contracts, Freiermuth will soon be on deck for a shot at landing a big money deal. But a lot of his usage still was odd. Pittsburgh would often push the ball down the field to him only late in games during comeback attempts. Meanwhile, he was forced to play in-line far more than in the slot, where he is far more productive.
Ben Roethlisberger had a chance to play with Freiermuth and has openly talked about his wishes to play more than one season with him. On the latest episode of Footbahlin, Roethlisberger raised significant concerns about how Matt Canada uses Freiermuth in the Steelers’ offense.
“I would like to see Pat more involved, I didn’t like last year,” Roethlisberger said. “You know, I thought Pat got involved like late games when crunch time happens. I want them to get him the ball early on some nakeds (boots), over the middle stuff, and get him involved early on. He’s one of your best players.’
The enticing thing that Batch brought up is Freiermuth’s contract situation. He will look around at the deals guys like Cole Kmet and T.J. Hockenson and want that money. But Hockenson had a receiving year where he posted over 900 yards receiving. Freiermuth needs to take another step up to get that type of contract. Batch suggested that Freiermuth could be in Kenny Pickett’s ear more to get him those targets that could bring him those stats.
“If I’m Freiermuth at this point, selfishly, I’m making sure I’m around Kenny and having those conversations because I’m in a contract year,” Batch said. “He’s motivated to get to that point, You see some of these contract numbers? I can see him being a lot more motivated this, not to say he wasn’t in the past, but whenever you get to a contract year, you have to capitalize on it.”
The Steelers paid Diontae Johnson last year, and Johnson saw a dip in his production due to a young offense meshing together. Now, the offense should hit full go. But for an offense that wants to run the ball plenty, Roethlisberger is worried that Freiermuth could be adversely hurt in that exchange.
As a result, he could see Freiermuth selfishly asking for some more targets subtlety, as Roethlisberger described it, a potentially “conservative offense” that could lead to Freiermuth asking for more help from the rest of the Steelers’ offense, especially their play-caller.
“As a guy that is about to go into a contract year as a skill guy, and you know that you have a young quarterback and a coordinator and offense that’s going to be a little more conservative, at some you have to be like, ‘come on now, let’s go a little bit.’ It’s just interesting to think about.”
With the addition of Darnell Washington, Freiermuth has a clear path to getting more production. With his usage in the slot likely increasing, the more explosive receptions could come with that. It not only would help Freiermuth, but the Steelers offense hit an entirely new gear.