2022 Offseason Questions: Will TEs Play More Prominent Role In Passing Game?

Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.

This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others—some already decided, some not.

Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor was re-signed, but Trai Turner was not. James Daniels and Mason Cole were added in free agency.

These are the sorts of topics among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: Will the tight end position play a more prominent role in the passing game in 2022?

Although the Steelers return their top two pass-catchers from last season in Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, they did also lose three wide receivers in free agency. Meanwhile, at tight end, you have Pat Freiermuth maturing into his second season and Zach Gentry also entering a second year as a contributor.

Add in new quarterbacks who are more likely to value the checkdown play to the tight end and a revised offense for Matt Canada, and you have a scenario in which we may see more opportunities come the way of the tight ends in the passing game.

Another factor is the desire to strengthen the running game. More and better running means more opportunities for blocking personnel to be on the field, and that also means more passing opportunities for them in the long run, since they’ll be running out of two-tight end sets and trying to avoid predictability.

I suppose the question is, do Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett want to be throwing more to Freiermuth and Gentry than the offense did last season? They were getting more looks toward the end of last year already, so it’s not even a matter necessarily of change in that regard, but rather an accumulation of trust in the players commanding the position.

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