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Steelers Analysis

Pat Freiermuth Could Jump Into Top Tier of TEs in 2023



Steelers Preseason Pat Freiermuth
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth celebrates a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills, Aug. 19, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Steelers have a really good starting tight end in Pat Freiermuth. No, seriously, as obvious as that might seem, it feels like Freiermuth does not get enough love regarding where the team could go this year. With the Steelers’ offense supposedly opening up its horizons, Freiermuth should see his stock go up, even with another tight end in Darnell Washington to take some targets away.

Washington might be the key to all of this. Let me walk you through some exciting stats regarding Freiermuth. He played primarily in-line last year, far more than in the slot. But the Steelers’ offense creates explosive plays for tight ends out of the slot. Seam routes are one-way Freiermith can win from that in-line position, but as an average blocker, that’s not his strength. Washington will be that guy who plays with his hand in the dirt. You should consider Freiermuth one of those flex tight ends by the season’s end.

Freiermuth’s stats from the slot are not just good. They are elite. A 98-target player last year, you have to consider the efficiency of some of those targets. Freiermith maximized that efficiency out of the slot, though. According to Dwain McFarland, Freiermuth ranked second in the NFL by delivering an explosive reception on 25 percent of his targets, only behind George Kittle of the 49ers. More importantly, when you dive into the other stats that matter, he’s top-10 in nearly every single one. Freiermuth ranked 7th in yards per route run and 9th in YAC over expected.

Steelers Pat Freiermuth

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

However, Freiermuth only played the 19th most snaps in the NFL last year among tight ends in the slot. Let me show you the difference in production and efficiency for Freiermuth from the slot. His yards per route run in the slot was 2.28 yards per route run, second-best in the NFL behind only Travis Kelce. Meanwhile, his inline yards per route run was 1.46, which barely cracks the top 10.

When we talk about Pat Freiermuth and his spot in the NFL tight end hierarchy, most would probably put him in the top ten but outside the top seven. That seems to be a fair estimate. He is in that awkward range as a productive tight end who put up 732 yards but only two touchdowns a year ago. For the first two years of a career, though, Freiermuth’s path suggests he has much more room to grow. The question is if he is the rare tight end to produce early and stay at that level or if he has another gear to his game.

With those stats from the slot and an expected increase in his snaps out there, is it that crazy to think Freiermuth can add 200 more yards to that resume and a few more touchdowns? If this passing offense is as good as it looked in the preseason, Freiermuth has a clear path to becoming an uber-productive tight end and potentially pushing 900 yards. The stats showcase that it comes down to his opportunity.

Washington’s presence there will give Freiermuth all the opportunities he needs in the slot. The 12 personnel this team will likely run should hit an all-time high. And Freiermuth’s growth as a player into Year 3 is something to watch, as this is when those top tight ends often break out. Don’t be surprised if Freiermuth is one of those players by the end of the season.

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