Frelund Tabs Freiermuth As Steelers’ Most Underappreciated Player Heading Into 2022

Is Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth the most underappreciated player on the team entering the 2022 season? NFL Network Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund certainly thinks that’s the case, and she said as much in her Wednesday post that centered around her identifying the AFC’s most underappreciated players for 2022 by team.

After first listing Freiermuth’s APY of $1.51 million, Frelund proceeded to give her reason for listing the Steelers’ second year tight end as the team’s most underappreciated player for 2022.

“My computer vision loves a versatile tight end, and that is exactly what Freiermuth was in 2021,” Frelund explained in her post. “Computer vision shows that his blocking win-share metric ranked fourth best among tight ends in the NFL last season. Per NGS [NextGen Stats], his +19.3-catch rate over expectation on tight-window throws was the highest among TEs. The 2021 second-rounder’s utility in the red zone was also tied for top three in the NFL, as he hauled in all seven of his touchdowns in this area. Freiermuth helps make up for deficits along the Steelers’ O-line and creates an outlet in the passing game, both of which combine to make him an incredibly important factor for Pittsburgh’s new signal caller, whether veteran Mitchell Trubisky or rookie Kenny Pickett takes the QB1 job.”

Freiermuth certainly hit the ground running as a rookie in 2021, and he really needed to as the team lost a key offensive weapon to injury early in the season in the form of wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Freiermuth went on to catch 60 passes for 497 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie on 79 total targets. He missed one game last season due to a concussion on his way to logging 683 total offensive snaps.

For 2022, Freiermuth’s role in the offense should grow even larger, especially if the team utilizes a lot more two tight end personnel groupings like backup tight end Zach Gentry recently indicated could be on tap. Obviously, Freiermuth could become the Steelers’ primary third down option in 2022 after finishing second in that phase of the game in 2021 as a rookie. In total, Freiermuth caught 24 passes on third downs in 2021 with 14 of those producing either a first down or a touchdown.

After posting an average depth of target stat of just 5.3 yards in 2021, Freiermuth will hopefully grow that number in 2022 with veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger now retired. Roethlisberger was the king of the short passes the last few seasons and that hurt Freiermuth’s numbers in 2021. Increasing his average depth of target stat in 2022 should result in Freiermuth having more receiving yardage and possibly a few more explosive play receptions as well.

In reality, Freiermuth could end the 2022 season as the Steelers’ second-leading pass catcher in total receptions, depending on how many catches that running back Najee Harris registers. The Penn State product should also have a shot at finishing in the top three on the Steelers in receiving yardage, as well.

So, is Freiermuth really the Steelers’ most underappreciated player entering 2022? To the team’s fanbase, probably not. To outsiders, however, he might just be, and thus he’s not a bad choice by Frelund.

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