As the 2023 NFL offseason rolls on for the Pittsburgh Steelers, a lot of fans are hopeful of what could become of the pieces the team has assembled. Although there are many fans who still have doubts as to how the Steelers offensive coordinator will piece everything together, the potential talent they have on the offensive side of the ball should allow a number of different options to be on the table.
One interesting item where the Steelers have had some success in recent years is having multiple players hit certain receiving milestones. For example, in the 2020 season the Steelers had four players with at least 500 yards receiving and five players with five or more receiving touchdowns. It got me thinking… could the Steelers have more than one tight end fit into either of these categories in 2023?
The reason I believed the Steelers could do so is a combination of their personnel and what could be their offensive philosophy this season. Because the Steelers have retained their tight ends from 2022 as well as drafted Darnell Washington in the 2023 NFL draft, the utilization of multiple tight ends could be even more likely. Plus, if Connor Heyward Is still classified as a tight end while also playing some fullback or H-back, there’s then another player who could get into the mix. Pat Freiermuth already entrenched at the tight end position where he had 732 receiving yards in 2022 and he had seven receiving touchdowns in his rookie season of 2021. If healthy, Freiermuth would be one tight end who could hit the mark in both categories.
So will the Steelers call on the rookie Darnell Washington to a point where he could reach either 500 receiving yards or five touchdowns? Could Connor Heyward be utilized enough to hit the mark in one of those categories?
In order to see if the Steelers could even hit this mark with their tight ends in 2023, I wanted to know where it would stand from a historical perspective. Using Pro Football Reference and filtering out players who were listed as a tight end, the Pittsburgh Steelers have never had two tight ends have 500 or more receiving yards in the same season. Lowering the standard a little bit to 400 yards, the Steelers achieved this once in 2018 were Vance McDonald had 610 receiving yards and Jesse James had 423 yards. So if the Steelers had two tight ends reach 400 yards, it would only be the second time.
Looking at touchdowns, the Steelers have never had two tight ends with five receiving touchdowns in a season. Lowering the standard here as well, the Steelers have never had two with four or more touchdowns in a season. Continuing even further, the Steelers have only ever had two seasons in where they had two tight ends with three or more touchdowns. This occurred in 2007 where Heath Miller had seven touchdowns and Matt Spaith had three as well as 1991 Eric Green had seven receiving touchdowns and Mike Mularkey had three.
While it would be great to see the Steelers have two tight ends reach the 500 yard and five touchdown mark, it would be quite a historical accomplishment within the franchise. Either way, it will be interesting to see how much the Steelers utilize their tight ends in 2023 to see if they can even come close.