Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth will have a chance to join elite company in 2023
By Tommy Jaggi
It didn't take long for Pat Freiermuth to overthrow Eric Ebron as the top tight end on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster during his rookie season in 2021. After a promising first year, Freiermuth saw an uptick in both usage and efficiency -- going from 8.3 yards per reception to 11.6 yards per catch.
Despite some minor injuries that have kept him off the field at times, the young tight end has recorded at least 60 receptions in each of his first two seasons in the NFL. Now it's possible that he could join historic company in 2023.
Recently, fantasy football analyst Josh Norris made a discovery. Using the Relative Athletic Score database, he found that only 17 tight ends drafted since 1991 have recorded a 1,000-yard season. The list of names is quite impressive.
This list includes some very notable names with players like Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, Greg Olsen, Rob Gronkowski, and Jimmy Graham. Some of the most recent tight ends to record at least 1,000 yards in a season are Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Darren Waller, Mark Andrews, and Kyle Pitts.
No matter how you slice it, this is an impressive list, so the fact that Freiermuth isn't far from this is noteworthy. What's more impressive is that he may have had a chance to crack this list in his second season in 2022.
Steelers tight end could join historic list if healthy
Because of a concussion early in the season, some bumps and bruises, and a late-season knee injury that forced him out early in the season finale, Freiermuth only played 68 percent of offensive snaps for the Steelers this past season and was credited with just 8 starts. Despite all of this, he still managed 732 receiving yards, via ESPN stats.
In year three, we expect Freiermuth to take another step forward. As his chemistry continues to grow with QB Kenny Pickett, Freiermuth could prove to be a bigger part of the passing offense. He was far more efficient than Diontae Johnson last year in the passing game -- turning his opportunities into a respectable 7.5 yards per target.
Obviously, in order to crack this all-time list, it's going to take a bit more usage in the passing game. If Freiermuth continues to fall short of 100 targets (98 in 2022), this isn't attainable. However, if he can go from playing 68 percent of snaps to even 78 percent, this could give him the boost he needs and the added looks in the passing game.
It is worth noting, however, that most of the names on the list of tight ends since 1991 to record a 1,000-yard season were remarkable athletes -- many of them testing above the 90th percentile. Freiermuth didn't do any athletic testing coming into the NFL as he was dealing with an injury, but he wasn't known for having elite athletic traits.
Regardless, we have already seen the progress Pat Freiermuth has made and what he can bring to the Pittsburgh Steelers offense as a security blanket over the middle of the field. If he stays healthy in 2023, he will have a chance to join an extremely impressive list of NFL tight ends by becoming just the 18th tight end to record a 1,000-yard season since 1991.