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Will the Steelers Extend Pat Freiermuth This Offseason?

Will the Pittsburgh Steelers decide to extend tight end Pat Freiermuth this offseason in what may be their toughest decision?

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Pittsburgh Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth
Pittsburgh Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth against the Baltimore Ravens, Jan. 6, 2024 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

 The Pittsburgh Steelers generally negotiate contracts with players that they’d like to extend for long-term contracts before the reach the final season of their current deal. That means that this offseason, Omar Khan and Pat Freiermuth and his representation might be getting together.

Freiermuth, the team’s second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, is up for a such a conversation for the first time in his career, as he is entering the fourth and final season of his rookie contract. He acknowledged that it’s on his radar for this offseason, but said he’s not focusing on that right now.

“I love Pittsburgh, I want to play the rest of my career here, but that’s not really what I’m thinking about right now,” Freiermuth said. “I’m thinking about this past season and where I can grow.”

He reiterated that on the Around the 412 Podcast, where he said that he wants to stay in Pittsburgh or the rest of his career, for the second time this offseason.

“I want to be in Pittsburgh for the rest of my career,” Freiermuth said. “Hopefully it shakes out that way. I want to continue to play for Pittsburgh because it reminds me of where I’m from and how I was raised. Growing up and going through the hard times and good times together. I feel like the Pittsburgh media and fanbase and everyone kind of does that together. I feel very at peace and very comfortable in Pittsburgh. So, hopefully it shakes out the way that I want it to in the next coming year or whenever that may be.”

Like most of the rest of the Pittsburgh offense, it was a tough season for Freiermuth. He missed five games with a hamstring injury, the first significant time out of the lineup in his career, and his stats tumbled on both an overall and a per-game basis

Freiermuth missed five games in 2023 due to a hamstring injury, but overall his numbers dropped from the two previous seasons. The subpar quarterback play and being in Matt Canada’s offense certainly didn’t help matters. In Freiermuth’s rookie season with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, he recorded seven touchdowns. He has a combined four touchdowns in the past two seasons.

Freiermuth finished the season with 32 catches for 308 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 25.7 yards per game. In 2022, he caught 63 passes for 732 yards and two touchdowns — a 45.8 yards per game average.

The downtown in performance makes for a tough evaluation when it comes to Freiermuth’s place in the NFL tight end marketplace. Most of the reasons for the Steelers overall offensive downturn, chiefly uncertainty at offensive coordinator and quarterback, are likely more to blame for Freiermuth’s lack of production than anything he failed to do.

Film Room: Pat Freiermuth Solving Steelers Problems (+)

Suppose new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith uses Freiermuth like he should be used, which is getting up to the second level and digging out those linebackers and safety rather than down-blocking into defensive ends. In that case, Freiermuth has the potential to unlock this offense. He started to block at a high level towards the end of the year, finally getting into the right spots that would allow him to succeed while playing at a high level.

But his mismatch ability in the receiving game was not used nearly enough. Freiermuth is an underrated route runner and, with play action in effect, could be a serious weapon down the field for the Steelers under Smith. He will play more than ever before on top of that, so expect Freiermuth to see himself take the leap if he gets used in the correct fashion while letting Darnell Washington clear lanes.