The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers need to get tight end Pat Freiermuth more involved in the passing game.
Explanation: The rookie second-round pick has so far proven to be a dependable player, though he did drop one pass in a very messy day for the whole offense two weeks ago. He is regarded as having very sure hands and enough athletic ability to open up the middle of the field, an area the offense desperately needs to crack.
There’s a reason that the Steelers invested a second-round pick in Freiermuth—or at least, there is a reason that you invest a high draft pick in a tight end. It’s to play him, to get him involved. While the Penn State product has been on the field, he hasn’t seen the volume of targets that he should be getting.
He has just 11 targets through four games, catching nine of them for 93 yards and a touchdown. Only four of those passes have been over the middle of the field, one of them being a shovel pass. All four of them have been successful plays for the offense, including a 24-yarder in the season opener.
The Steelers are desperate to get the middle of the field open, and Freiermuth is the guy to unlock it. That more than any other reason is why they need to get him more involved in the passing game.
The offense can achieve the same objective through other means, and it starts with getting things going on the ground. If you can pull the linebackers in with the threat of the run, then you can throw over their heads, so if anything, the Steelers need Freiermuth to be an even stronger blocker.
They have big bodies who can go over the middle in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool, and tight end Eric Ebron reminded us last week that he is still capable of making the clutch conversion catch while taking a hit. This is a global problem, not a Freiermuth problem. It would be nice to get him involved more just for the sake of getting him more contributions, but it’s not something that is schematically necessary.