Arthur Smith creates an inevitable tight end 'boom' for the Steelers in 2024

Arthur Smith has a history of boosting this offensive unit, can he do the same in Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts
Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

Pat Freiermuth and his coalition of tight ends on the Steelers roster are gearing up for a rapid increase in targets and roles this upcoming season as OC Arthur Smith is poised to reinvent the Steel City playbook. Last season, big-bodied rookie TE Darnell Washington was primarily utilized as a blocking TE and created lanes for RBs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren to gain exceptional yardage. Also, Mr. Connor Heyward enters his third season with the black and gold and could see a rebound year in the works. 

It’s evident that Arthur Smith’s influence is shaping the new offense with the addition of  MyCole Pruitt. Pruitt has previous ties to the Steelers' new OC, as both were on the Atlanta Falcons last season.

Though Pruitt was not considered a standout at his position, there is a looming amount of respect and camaraderie between him and Smith that could be an asset for the TEs to observe and grow as a unit. With a packed TE room, could we see some stout competition enter through the draft as well for the Steel City? 

The tight end impact shifts dramatically

Leading the TE room continues to be Pat Freiermuth. An old reliable target from the days of Ben Roethlisberger, Freiermuth is a clear asset and safety net for all Steelers QBs. Whether it’s a crucial third down or a red zone opportunity, #88 is a dependable option for the Steel City squad, instilling a sense of confidence in the fans.

Publicly, Muth has expressed his desire to finish out his career in Pittsburgh and has even begun working in the offseason with QB Russell Wilson. Whether or not this is Muth’s last season with the Steelers is up in the air, but #88 is sure to give us fans an exhilarating and hopeful 2024 season, as long as he stays healthy that is. 

Connor Heyward is due for a breakout season as we continue to see glimpses of potential. Though last season’s stats do not jump off paper (23 receptions, 167 yards), Heyward has proven that he can step up to the plate when needed. 

Arthur Smith could formulate more TE blocking plays to create space for their RBs rather than utilizing them for receptions. However, Smith was also the Tight-Ends coach with the Tennessee Titans back in 2016-2018 before obtaining the position of OC on the Titans from 2019-2020.

During Smith’s role as the TE coach, TE Delanie Walker in the 2016 season eclipsed 800 yards on 65 receptions. The following season, Walker posted 807 yards over 74 receptions. The Steelers TE room has not seen that productivity level of receptions since the days of #83 Heath Miller. 

The verdict on Steelers' TE room

Darnell Washington continues to be a cutthroat blocking TE on the roster, with multiple game tape instances of the rookie dominating the defense when he’s on the field. Steel City fans have to be excited for his sophomore season upon us. Though we may not see an uptick in receptions for #80, there will be plenty of wow-worthy blocking moments that will successfully set up the offense’s run game. 

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Arthur Smith is bound to unleash the versatility and skill set of the TEs on the black and gold this season. With a stacked receiving room and perhaps a more robust O-line in the works for incoming QB Russell Wilson, watch out teams, the Steel City is a legitimate contender.