Just mere days ago, it appeared that the 2023 season was going to be a complete wash for Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth. Coming into last weekend, the former second-round pick has totaled just nine catches for 60 yards in an injury-riddled and ineffective campaign. Then on Sunday, Freiermuth went berserk against the Cincinnati Bengals, setting career highs in receptions (9) and receiving yards (120). Finally, in late November, Pittsburgh seems to have rediscovered their talent pass catching weapon which is good news moving forward.
With Eddie Faulkner and Mike Sullivan taking over the offense in relief of Matt Canada, they were left with a plethora of problems to solve. With an offense that currently sits 24th in EPA/play and 26th in success rate, that seems obvious. One of the most glaring omissions from the offense all season has been their avoidance of the middle of the field. Quarterback Kenny Pickett has gone multiple weeks in a row without so much as attempting a pass. That isn’t a formula for success but against the Bengals, we saw immediate changes.
On the very first play from scrimmage, the Steelers called four verticals against a Tampa-2 look from the Bengals. Both inside receivers, Freiermuth and Allen Robinson, bend their routes to split the half-field safeties. Pickett identifies the Mike linebacker opening to the strong side of the formation, directs his eyes to other side and lofts a pretty pass right into the open void. A deep shot off play-action to the middle of the field involving their previously ignored tight end felt like a dream come true.