Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: TE Pat Freiermuth
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: The rookie tight end had his ‘not everything is perfect’ moment in the regular season, having an overtime period to forget, during which he dropped a pass and then was made to fumble on what would be the final offensive play of the game, which could have set up a potential game-winning field goal.
This should be an interesting experiment. Is it possible to acknowledge that a well-loved young player had a bad game—or at least a game in which the lows far outweighed the highs—without getting blowback for ‘hating’?
Rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth’s failings, of course, are undeniable and blatant. He began to turn upfield and turned his head before securing the ball on a sideline pass earlier in the overtime period, resulting in him putting the ball on the ground for his second outright drop of the season.
Then there was the Steelers’ final offensive play of the game. With 15 seconds to play from the Lions’ 49-yard line, he caught a short pass near the right sideline, and instead of fighting to get out of bounds with no timeouts remaining, the way Diontae Johnson literally did one play earlier, he immediately welcomed the contact.
And he allowed the defender to put his helmet right on the ball, popping it loose. If he were executing the proper level of ball security, even a direct hit on the ball should have failed to dislodge the ball. That’s what Steelers fans argue when they don’t give Rashard Mendenhall the benefit of the doubt for his fumble in the Super Bowl, anyway.
Freiermuth did have four receptions for 30 yards on eight targets prior to that fumble. Of course, he was also working with Mason Rudolph rather than Ben Roethlisberger, with whom he had been building a strong rapport.