The Steelers are at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, informally known as the South Side facility, now into the regular season. It’s where they otherwise train all year round, and the facility that Burt Lauten insists everybody refers to by its full name.
There are still unsettled questions that need answering, even deep into the regular season. They entered the process with questions in the starting lineup, in scheme, and elsewhere, but new problems always arise that need to be resolved.
Even questions about who’s starting and when may not have satisfactory answers in their finality, as midseason changes are certainly quite possible, for some positions more than others. We’re also feeling out how the new coordinator posts—or posts in new contexts—end up playing out.
There’s never any shortage of questions when it comes to football, and we’ll be discussing them here on a daily basis for the community to “talk amongst yourselves”, as Linda Richman might say on Coffee Talk.
Question: Will tight end Pat Freiermuth be a regular double-digit(ish) target for Mitch Trubisky?
New Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky attempted 38 passes during his first game with the team. Admittedly, the game ended up going 70 minutes because of overtime, so that inflates the number, but we can also (hopefully) reasonably expect that the offense will be able to have more sustained drives that allows for more time of possession.
After all, even though the game went 10 minutes longer, the Steelers only possessed the ball for 26:18 compared to the Bengals’ 43:42, and you can only put so much of that on the pick six. The reality is that of their 13 meaningful possessions, 7 either spanned under 7 minutes or failed to earn a first down, if not both.
But of those 38 pass attempts, Diontae Johnson got 12 of them. Pat Freiermuth got 10 of them. And Trubisky has a history of throwing to his tight ends going back to his days in Chicago. So could we realistically envision the second-year tight end as somewhat regularly seeing approximately 10 targets per game?
Obviously that’s going to vary game to game, but it’s not as though there aren’t a number of tight ends around the league who see heavy-volume targets. Most of those are glorified wide receivers, which Freiermuth is not, but he works those soft zones and finds the holes.
If they can start working him vertically more, which signs this offseason point to, that could open another area of targets for him. The fact that he is perhaps the most reliable catcher of the ball on the roster also doesn’t hurt his chances of being a regular high-volume option with Trubisky under center.