PITTSBURGH -- Often, it seems like the Pittsburgh Steelers are limiting themselves by choosing to throw only to certain parts of the field. It makes their passing game predictable and easy to defend. Meanwhile, an easy fix is in-house. A young tight end that can stress the middle of defenses is already on the roster.
Pat Freiermuth was suspiciously quiet for the Steelers offense during their 29-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns last week. Mitch Trubisky targetted his reliable tight end just four times with his 32 attempts and completed two of those passes for 41 yards.
20 yards per catch is a nice average but both plays made you wonder why Freiermuth was left as an accessory for most of the game. He didn't record a catch until the fourth quarter when Trubisky needed a play and the Browns were keying on other playmakers like George Pickens, Diontae Johnson and Najee Harris.
Through Freiermuth's first 20 regular season games as a Steeler, he's been targeted six or more on nine occasions and the Steelers are 6-2-1 in those games. They're undefeated when Freiermuth hauls in 50 or more receiving yards and 5-2 when he accounts for more than 40.
In those six games where Freiermuth sees six ore more targets, the Steelers are scoring 21 points per game, which doesn't sound like much but it's an improvement on their current mark of 18 per game. It's also a striking number when you consider that the beleaguered defense is surrendering just 22 points per game.
When the Steelers bested the Bengals in Week 1 to capture their only win of the season so far, Freiermuth played what was probably the best game of his career - ten targets ended in five receptions for 75 yards, more than a few of which came late with the Steelers needing points. In the two games since, Trubisky has thrown his way 11 times. Freiermuth's delivered when the team has needed them most and they need him more than ever this week as they look to stave off 1-3 against the New York Jets.
Given the way the defense has continued to stand tall despite key injuries, the offenses' margin for error is fairly large. They don't have to be great for the Steelers to win, so coming up with a play or two here and there could mean the difference between falling down into the depth of league standings and competing for a spot in the playoffs.
Getting Freiermuth - one of the most talented players in an offense that features a fantastic top line at the skill positions - the ball more is an easy way to find those key plays that extend drives, score points and keep the defense off the field.
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