Arthur Smith has a mystery solution for the Steelers at slot receiver

The solution for the Steelers' slot receiver has been hiding in plain sight.
Dec 10, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith looks at a play sheet
Dec 10, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith looks at a play sheet / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

While the Steelers may have indicated they may draft a wide receiver with their first pick, that is far from a guarantee they will. If they take one, it might be a safe bet the receiver will come with their third selection, not the second round, which assumes the Steelers use their second selection for a center.

Within that scenario, the Steelers still need a slot receiver. Short of drafting one, it’s always possible they make a trade, but that seems to be off the table for now. Thus, the question is what the Steelers will do for a slot receiver, given that they have yet to sign one either.

While it may appear to be a slight quandary to the untrained eye, the answer may have been hiding in plain sight. It's also quite possible Arthur Smith has given Mike Tomlin the solution, which is why there has not been a push for a wide receiver. This would explain a curious free-agent signing that didn’t make sense at the time.

What is Arthurs Smith's mystery solution?

Before answering that question, we must look at a free-agent signing in the first week of April. If you have not paid attention, the Steelers signed another tight end, Mycole Pruitt. Considering that the Steelers have Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington, Connor Heyward, and Rodney Williams, why should they sign Pruitt?

The simple reason is that Williams will probably wind up on the practice squad or be cut. Aside from that, he will be primarily a blocking tight end, which allows the Steelers to make an offensive adjustment. Hence, Arthur Smith's solution is to move Pat Freiermuth into the slot.

Perhaps this is all speculation, but it comes with a certain probability. Tight ends lining up as slot receivers is not unprecedented. Also, when Arthur Smith was Atlanta's head coach, guess who lined up in the slot on numerous snaps? That's right, Kyle Pitts. Given that it has already happened in his offenses in Atlanta, Smith may have an inclination to use Freiermuth in the same capacity.

Why Freiermuth?

Freiermuth is no Heath Miller, but that is not a jab at Freiermuth. Miller was a great blocker, and Freiermuth, while not a great blocker, is a great receiver. In Smith's mind, making the best of Freiermuth's receiving talent makes sense. So, sign a tight end that Smith worked with previously who understands his system and uses him as a blocker, allowing Freiermuth to transition into a more pronounced role in the passing game.

Keep in mind that this will not be a complete transition. The Steelers will also use Freiermuth in the offensive line; it's just that with additional blockers on the team, there is less of a need to sign additional receivers beyond those they take in the draft. The Steelers don't need to make trades, find other free agents, or spend more money than they need to. It's a genius solution, and Freiermuth is the perfect option to make it work.

How much of this is likely to occur?

It's hard to say. First, it depends on the draft and who they take. If they do not take any wide receivers before the fourth round, you can be assured that this is probably the Steelers' plan. We will still need to wait to see how the entire offense shakes out for Smith but don't be surprised if you see this happen.