While he’s a fan favorite in Pittsburgh with a hearty “Muuuuuuuuth” from the home crowd every time Pat Freiermuth catches the football, he’s arguably an underrated and overlooked player compared to the AFC. NFL.com’s Cynthia Frelund seems to agree, including Freiermuth on her list of underappreciated players around the AFC.
She notes his cheap rookie contract, the 47th-most expensive tight end in the NFL, as one reason why he’s underappreciated.
“When aligned in the slot last season, Freiermuth earned 100 receiving yards over expected and 73 yards after the catch over expected, ranking fourth at the position in both categories, per NGS.”
Freiermuth could stand up even more in 2023 as the Steelers employ more 12 personnel after drafting TE Darnell Washington. Arguably the draft’s best blocker, Washington could slide in as the team’s in-line, “Y” tight end and allow Freiermuth to focus more on his receiving role, something he mentioned to reporters Tuesday.
Later last season, Matt Canada got more creative with him and used him as a backside “nub” player in 3×1 packages, isolating him 1 v 1 against a defender and throwing a handful of fades to him. The results were mixed but the Steelers used Freiermuth well last year, utilizing him downfield more than he was as a rookie.
In 2021, Freiermuth caught just two passes of 20+ yards, or 3.3% of his receptions. In 2022, nine of his receptions were 20+ yards, his share jumping up to 14.3%.
While he isn’t one of the very best tight ends in the league, he’s a top 10 at the position with a chance to come near the top five with a strong 2023 season. He’s proven to be a heady tight end with overlooked athleticism and burst at the top of his route with some of football’s most reliable hands. A solid choice to put him on an underappreciated list.
Other names from the AFC North to show up alongside Freiermuth include Baltimore Ravens OT Morgan Moses, Cincinnati Bengals WR Tee Higgins, and Cleveland Browns center Ethan Pocic.