In the Pittsburgh Steelers’ last game of the season, it looked like tight end Pat Freiermuth had suffered a catastrophic knee injury. Luckily it turned out that he just sprained his knee and barring something unexpected in the offseason, he should be 100% to go for next year.
Given this good news, former Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sang his praises today on his YouTube podcast Footbahlin, and urged for the team to get him the ball more.
“I would like to see him [Freiermuth] get involved more,” Roethlisberger said. “I think he should get involved in the game more. Your best players on the field, you got to get him the ball, somehow. Tight end screens, work him in the middle of the field, get him mismatched on somebody, whatever it is. I would just like to see him get involved more. Especially in the red zone, he’s so dynamic with the ball.”
Even though Freiermuth was only a rookie in Roethlisberger’s last season he still saw a ton of targets. Roethlisberger targeted Freiermuth 70 times, fourth highest on the team. Of those 70 targets, Freiermuth caught 55 passes for 466 yards and scored seven touchdowns when Roethlisberger was throwing the ball.
Freiermuth was expected to make a big jump, and while he certainly improved, his stats don’t jump off the page like some expected. This is because of the Steelers’ offensive woes this year. In his second year, Freiermuth was targeted 98 times and caught 63 passes for 732 yards and two touchdowns.
The biggest difference this season is that Freiermuth was able to do wonders after catching the ball racking up tons of YAC (yards after catch) to jump his yardage number up. However, the Steelers’ struggles in the red zone and in scoring touchdowns brought his receiving touchdowns down.
Next year, with quarterback Kenny Pickett having a full offseason and more experience, Freiermuth will likely be targeted more. If the game continues to slow down for Pickett in the red zone Freiermuth will likely be one of the biggest beneficiaries as his large frame and sticky hands were a favorite target of Roethlisberger down inside the 20 in 2021.
Comparing Freiermuth’s red zone stats in the two years, in 2022, Freiermuth saw only 12 targets inside the 20, catching six passes and scoring two touchdowns. In 2021, Freiermuth saw 18 targets, catching 12 passes and scoring seven touchdowns inside the 20.
If Freiermuth can continue growing in the YAC game while also seeing more red zone targets next season, he could easily become a top-five tight end in the NFL. If this happens, the Steelers’ offense will be dangerous with the right play calling.