Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers are deep into the 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 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: The second-year tight end appears to have avoided a worst-case scenario knee injury suffered in the season finale against the Cleveland Browns. What initially looked like potentially a significant torn ACL was reported by head coach Mike Tomlin as a non-surgical MCL injury (still a tear, but not one that needs to be surgically repaired), which means that he should safely be available for the start of the 2023 season.
Pat Freiermuth is already a cornerstone of this young Steelers roster, but he only has the potential to become more and more important. The second-year tight end could become rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett’s best friend after getting in a full offseason together.
After all, this is the same guy that retired quarterback Ben Roethlisberger laments not having had a longer opportunity to play with and whom he likened to Heath Miller. Now, Freiermuth and Miller are not identical players, but they have both shared the quality of being reliable targets.
Although he did not find the way he would have liked to (who did in Pittsburgh last season?), Freiermuth made significant strides in his second season in his ability to run after the catch. He only caught three more balls this past year compared to last, but he turned that into an extra 235 yards, almost a 50% increase, kicking up his yards per catch from a staggeringly anemic 8.3 to 11.6.
Part of the reason he was able to pick up more yards was because quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett were finding him further down the field more frequently than Roethlisberger was. His average depth of target was just 5.3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage as a rookie. In 2022, it was 8.1. His yards after the catch only jumped from 4.1 yards 4.6, though he should still be commended for making strides here as well.
And most importantly, for now, he should be ready for the start of the 2023 season after exiting the finale on Sunday with a knee injury that looked like it could have been much more serious than it now sounds like it is. He will still miss time this offseason, but there is virtually no risk of him not being ready for training camp after being diagnosed with a non-surgical injury.