Should Steelers offer Pat Freiermuth a contract extension?

Pat Freiermuth has expressed interest in finishing his career as a Pittsburgh Steeler, but should the Steelers offer him an extension?
New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers
New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

Pat Freiermuth has had an up-and-down career thus far in the NFL. He has shown flashes of greatness at the NFL level, showing his potential to be a legitimate weapon in the passing game. However, injuries and inconsistency have limited his production.

With Freiermuth entering the final year of his rookie contract, the Steelers will have a decision to make before this season, on if they should lock him in long-term or not.

The case for a Freiermuth extension

The case for a Freiermuth extension is simple, he has been a productive tight end for the Steelers, yet his numbers haven't been great due to poor quarterback production. Signing Freiermuth to a long-term deal off a down season could mean the Steelers get him at a bargain.

He flashed the ability to be a valuable red zone weapon in his rookie season with Roethlisberger under center and has proven to be the perfect old-school receiving option as an underneath option to move the chains. However, his production was hampered this past season due to the offense boycotting the middle of the field.

Whether it was Kenny Pickett or Matt Canada doesn't matter, either way, the offense chose to attack defenses through the air via the check-down or outside the hashes. Not only is this a more difficult way to move the ball, but it also phased Freiermuth out of the offense for the most part.

Freiermuth does most of his damage in the middle of the field, on third downs, and in the red zone, however, the Steelers didn't get to the red zone much and threw mostly check-downs to Jaylen Warren on third downs.

With Arthur Smith as the new offensive coordinator and Kenny Pickett no longer on the roster, the Steelers will likely feature a run-centric offense with lots of play-action. This is great for Freiermuth, as the tight end is a big part of Arthur Smith's offensive philosophy, and could have a career year if he stays healthy. Signing him to an extension before that happens would get him at a much more team-friendly price then he may see if he plays well and tests the open market.

The case against extending Pat Freiermuth

Despite everything mentioned above, the case against extending him is also pretty simple, it is a risk. As previously mentioned he has had trouble staying healthy, particularly with concussions, and has been inconsistent when he is on the field.

While the argument of the poor offensive game plan and poor quarterback play is true, at the end of the day, he hasn't produced to the level that the team and fans hoped he would.

Lack of consistent production and health concerns make it hard to justify locking him up at an increased salary long-term. Once a player is making big money there are no excuses, the expectation is for him to perform, regardless of the situation, and Freiermuth has not yet proven that he can do that.

Tight ends don't make much money in general, as even the highest-paid players such as Darren Waller, T.J. Hockenson, and George Kittle are only making between $15 and $17 million, per Over the Cap. It is unlikely that he will have a year good enough to justify paying him among the elite of the elite so why not gamble and hope being in a contract year motivates him?

If he plays well then you can pay him in the offseason if you still want to, as he will likely command a deal similar to the $12 million per year that Dalton Schultz signed for this offseason. If he doesn't play well or gets hurt again then either let him walk or bring him back on a much more affordable deal.

Ultimately, I believe the Steelers should entertain a conversation about a contract extension and see his asking price. While I believe they should play this season out and determine what they will do with him next offseason, if his asking price is a number that they view as a bargain and not much of a risk, then, by all means, sign him long-term.