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: Up
Reasoning: While not yet cleared, rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth has practiced fully throughout the week thus far, a clear indication that he should exit the concussion protocol smoothly and be available to play against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
While he has yet to become the next George Kittle, rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth has had a solid rookie season thus far, highlighted by his six touchdown receptions—five in the past five games, and his 13 first downs or touchdowns on third and fourth down.
In the past six games since wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s injury, he has been targeted 40 times, catching 29 passes for 227 yards, along with six of his six touchdowns, which is approaching a Steelers rookie record for tight ends.
He got his sixth score last in Sunday’s game, but he also suffered a concussion on the play. He was announced as in the concussion protocol on Tuesday by head coach Mike Tomlin, but he has since been a full participant in practice, which is almost always a sign that he will soon be cleared and will be available to play in the team’s next game.
With tight end Eric Ebron on the Reserve/Injured List, Freiermuth’s role has only become even more important, particularly in the receiving role. Zach Gentry and now Kevin Rader are the team’s other two tight ends on the 53-man roster.
Outside of the overtime fumble a couple of weeks ago and two drops, the Penn State product has been pretty much as advertised since coming in as a second-round pick. The one area in which we would still like to see improvement, however, is in the run after the catch department.
He is averaging just 8.2 yards per reception. While largely driven by his utilization, that really is a garbage number. There’s no reason that a tight end should not be averaging at least double digits in yards per catch. Among tight ends with at least 25 targets, that ranked 35th out of 38.