Pat Freiermuth is emerging into not only a top weapon for this Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense but perhaps the top weapon. Now leading the team in yards and second on the club in receptions, he’s building off an already-strong first year to potentially have one of the best single seasons by a Steelers’ tight end in team history. That may sound like a big deal but to Mike Tomlin, it’s all expected.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Tomlin said he isn’t surprised by Freiermuth’s play.
“Pat’s a second year guy,” he said via the team’s YouTube channel. “It’s reasonable to expect those guys to make a significant jump. He had a lot of success in his first year. It made us really optimistic about the prospects of this year and I think it’s just kind of coming to fruition. I don’t think any of us are surprised by it. And at the top of the list, Pat Freiermuth [isn’t surprised].”
Through the team’s first 12 games, Freiermuth’s caught 50 passes for 597 yards. Though he has just one touchdown this season, passing scores haven’t been the team’s forte, he’s already lapped the yardage he had as a rookie (497) and is on pace to have more receptions than he did as a rookie. In fact, he’s on pace to finish 2022 with 70 receptions for 845 yards.
Only ten different Steelers in franchise history have ever recorded such a line. Nine of them have been wide receivers while the other was RB Le’Veon Bell, meaning no tight end in Steelers’ history has had that sort of season. Freiermuth could threaten the record for most receptions by a Steelers’ tight end in a single season. That mark is currently held by the 76 passes Heath Miller caught in 2009. And should Freiermuth finish the year with 845 yards, it’d be the third-most in a season by a tight end trailing only Eric Green’s 942 and Elbie Nickle’s 884. Miller never had more than 816 yards in a season.
Freiermuth notched his biggest play of the year in Sunday’s win over Atlanta, a 57-yard reception down the left sideline. It was the second-longest completion to a tight end in the Mike Tomlin era, only trailing Vance McDonald’s stiff arm in 2018. Freiermuth’s noticeably gotten better post-catch this season while he and Kenny Pickett have developed great chemistry.
Freiermuth still isn’t one of the elite tight ends in football, airspace reserved for the likes of Travis Kelce. But in a league where quality tight end play is hard to find, there’s only a handful of consistent ones in football, Freiermuth’s arguably at least in the top ten. By the end of the year or the start of 2023, he could be nearing top-five status.