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The Steelers offense needs to utilize their Tight Ends more down the stretch

The Steelers Tight End depth chart has been playing out of their minds.

Tennessee Titans v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers really have one of the best tight in groups in all of football. The obvious gem in rookie Pat Freiermuth stands out above the rest, but players like Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader hold their own when they are on the field. All three of these guys are extremely underused when they are on the field. Really, Pat Freiermuth should be one of the statistical leaders in all major categories for tight ends, despite his rookie status. And whoever the No. 2 tight end is on any given week should be given more than just one target. On any given reception these tight ends are making plays and helping to drive the Steelers offense.

But somehow, even with their mismatch frames, the Steelers just don’t look the way of their tight ends very often. In 2021, the Steelers tight ends combine for 72 receptions, 604 yards, and 8 touchdowns. While the touchdown numbers are pretty impressive, having a tight end like Freiermuth alone should put the Steelers close to 1,000 receiving yards at the position. But, for whatever reason, during the Ben Roethlisberger era the Pittsburgh Steelers seem to not target the tight end much at all. Even with a great like Heath Miller in the lineup, the Steelers still didn’t give the position the frequency it deserves.

When comparing this current group to the best unit in Steelers recent memory, Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth, I don’t think anyone would argue against Pat Freiermuth being a better athlete than Heath Miller was even in his prime. Miller was clearly a better all around tight end, but when it comes to speed and elusiveness Freiermuth has him beat. When it comes to the massive No. 2 tight end, Gentry has some sneaky soft hands and moves well when he has the ball, something Spaeth never possessed. Sure, Spaeth was an elite blocker, but that was his entire game, Gentry is a good blocker that is also good at catching the ball.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Pittsburgh Steelers ask their tight ends to play a very well-rounded game. They need to block well and they need to catch the football when it’s thrown their way. When the Steelers lost Eric Ebron for the remainder of the 2021 season, they experienced a bit of a an addition by subtraction scenario. Ebron has always struggled as a blocker, but his contract as an athletic receiver dictated he needed to have playing time if he was going to take up a roster spot. The Steelers still asked of him to be a well-rounded tide, but he simply wasn’t. With Ebron now relegated to the sidelines while he nurses his knee injury, the Steelers have been better at the position with Freiermuth leading the charge and Gentry, a better blocker, playing the second fiddle.

I would argue one of the greatest strengths of this offense is this tight end room. These players make plays when given opportunities, but somehow these opportunities are still few and far between. If the Steelers want to get more out of their offense in 2021, and heading into the future, they should look at the oversized big guys running routes in the middle of the field. They are playmakers that need to be a bigger part of this offense moving forward.

What do you think? Do you believe the Steelers are under utilizing their Tight Ends? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.