The Steelers’ offense will be down another starter for the time being. Tight end Pat Freiermuth is expected to miss two to three weeks with a hamstring injury, reports Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The team’s passing attack is already without wideout Diontae Johnson, who is on injured reserve due to his own hamstring ailment. Losing Freiermuth for an overlapping stretch will leave the Steelers without their top pass-catcher at the TE spot and thus hinder a passing attack which has failed to live up to expectations so far in 2023.
The 2021 second-rounder recorded at least 60 catches in each of his first two seasons in Pittsburgh, proving his value as a consistent complimentary option on offense. This year, however, Freiermuth has posted just eight grabs for 53 yards (though two of them have resulted in touchdowns). In spite of the underwhelming totals, his absence will be felt on a unit which does not feature a similarly established option at the position.
Pittsburgh has 2022 sixth-rounder Connor Heyward – who has made 14 catches to date in his career – and third-round rookie Darnell Washington available as replacements. The latter, who established himself as an athletic standout in a deep tight end class at the Combine and proved to be a highly effective blocker at Georgia, has received only one target to date. That total will likely increase in the near future with Freiermuth unavailable.
The status of quarterback Kenny Pickett is uncertain at this point after he exited the Steelers’ Week 4 loss with a knee injury. That ailment is not serious, though, meaning he could suit up for Week 5. Regardless of who is under center for Pittsburgh – a team which has the bye coming up in Week 6 – this Sunday, the offense’s skill-position corps will be shorthanded. With the Steelers’ offense coming under fire after a 2-2 start, it will be interesting to see how the unit fares at less than full strength.