Now that training camp is over with, the Pittsburgh Steelers are back in Pittsburgh and gearing up for what they hope will be a much more productive season, it’s time to take stock of where the team stands. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of training camp and the preseason, and the regular season as it plays out. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning for each one. 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: Head coach Mike Tomlin specifically cited the team’s belief in tight end Pat Freiermuth’s receiving abilities as an interior threat as one of the reasons that they were comfortable trading wide receiver Chase Claypool. It serves as an indication that the second-year player should be an even bigger part of the passing game in the second half of the year.
He’s not quite on a record-breaking pace, but tight end Pat Freiermuth is having himself a solid season. Through seven games (he missed one due to a concussion), he has caught 32 passes for 367 yards. He has recorded at least five receptions in three games this year, and at least 75 receiving yards as well.
With nine games left to go, he is on pace to record 73 receptions for 839 yards, numbers that would rank up there in terms of all-time franchise statistics for a tight end.
But there is a distinct possibility that he could see his target rate climb as the season progresses, this after the Steelers removed wide receiver Chase Claypool from the equation. They traded him just before the deadline when the Chicago Bears offered a second-round pick.
The team’s primary slot receiver, Claypool played in eight games for the Steelers this year, recording 32 receptions on 50 targets for 311 yards. Those 50 targets will now have to be redistributed elsewhere, and they’re not all going to go to Steven Sims, who appears to be the ‘next man up’ as the number three receiver, at least initially.
As mentioned above, head coach Mike Tomlin specifically named Freiermuth with his ability to catch the ball over the middle as one of the reasons that they felt comfortable moving on from Claypool once they got the compensation they did at the 11th hour.
Given that, one has to figure that means the tight end will only become a bigger target in the passing game. Now, he has been targeted at least seven times in all but two games so far, and that’s about what his per-game average has been, but it can certainly be higher.