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Pat Freiermuth: Steelers Had No Hot Routes with Kenny Pickett 2022



Steelers Pickett Freiermuth

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ passing attack was brutal in 2022, and tight Pat Freiermuth might have just revealed why. On Ben Roethlisberger’s “Footbhalin” podcast recently Freiermuth candidly told his former quarterback that the Steelers had “no hot routes” in place for rookie Kenny Pickett this past year. Which wasn’t the case when the future Hall of Famer was under center.

“It’s so different because we didn’t have hots,” Freiermuth told Roethlisberger. “With you, how many times did we have a concept, and you looked (at Diontae Johnson) and gave a signal, and it’d be a 12-yard completion. We didn’t have that this year.”

The Steelers ranked 24th in passing yards per game in 2022, averaging just 200.6 yards. George Pickens’ 31-yard touchdown reception in Week 18 against the Cleveland Browns was the Steelers’ longest touchdown of the year, and Pickett never threw two touchdowns in a game. Dionate Johnson also didn’t score a single touchdown despite recording 86 receptions on 147 targets, which is an NFL record. That’s how bad it was.

“So instead of looking at you the whole time, we were looking at coverage — like, I know what I’m supposed to do. It was almost too slow at first because you weren’t anticipating. With you, we could see cover zero and you would give us a Ram (read away from Mike linebacker) route,” Freiermuth said. “So that was probably the most different between the two.”

The Steelers finished the season 7-2 down the stretch after a 2-6 start, so there was an improvement with Pickett under Canada’s tutelage. Hence why team president Art Rooney II didn’t dismiss Canada at the end of the season. The offense was productive in the running game and controlling the clock, but the passing game was still stagnant. Pickett’s back-to-back game-winning drives against the Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens late in the year arguably saved Canada’s job, because the offense did next to nothing in both games until the end. It also lifted the Steelers to another winning season at 9-8.

With 12 starts under his belt, Freiermuth believes Pickett will take a leap in Year 2.

“He was just so much more confident and so much more urgent and knew what he was gonna do,” Freiermuth said of Pickett’s play in the second half of the season. “So it took him a little bit to get going, but he showed that he’s the real deal.”


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