Pat Freiermuth slipped under many fantasy football radars in the preseason, often overshadowed by his rookie classmate Kyle Pitts. The Pittsburgh Steelers tight end has proven that he should be anything but an afterthought at this stage, though. Has he entered the group of every-week starters? If not, should you start him against the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday Night Football in Week 14?
A new-look Steelers offense
The Steelers’ passing game hasn’t been as impressive as in previous years. The receiving talent is still there, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is showing his age. He doesn’t have the deep ball he once did, and the offense has adapted as a result. Roethlisberger is 33rd in the NFL in air yards per attempt with 6.9. That’s down from 7.1 last season, 8.5 in 2019, and 8.1 in 2018.
Roethlisberger’s passing yards per game are also down to 250.7. That number is his lowest since 2008 (excluding the 2019 season when he played just 1.5 games). JuJu Smith-Schuster is out for the season, but Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and James Washington are all capable of winning deep if given the opportunity.
The reduced vertical threat has worked out well for some players, though. Running back Najee Harris has been the primary beneficiary, as he has been targeted 72 times. The other player who has been a vital part of the offense is Freiermuth. Freiermuth has caught 43 of his 57 targets for 353 yards and 6 touchdowns.
The yardage isn’t always there — his yardage totals of 26, 40, and 11 over his last three games are evidence of that. He’s become a safety net for Roethlisberger, though, and he’s been targeted at least 4 times in each of his last six games.
Pat Freiermuth is always a touchdown threat
Freiermuth’s red-zone production has been encouraging. His 6 touchdowns are enough to match Johnson for the team lead, despite Johnson being targeted an extra 63 times. Freiermuth has been targeted 15 times in the red zone, the seventh-highest mark in the NFL.
Meanwhile, his 9 targets inside the 10-yard line are fewer than only Cooper Kupp, Randall Cobb, and Mike Evans. 25% of the Steelers’ passing plays inside the 20 have targeted Freiermuth, while 27.3% of their passes within the 10 are thrown in his direction.
Should you start Pat Freiermuth in Week 14?
The Steelers get a tough matchup against the Vikings on Thursday Night Football this week. The Vikings have performed well against tight ends all season, allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points per game in both standard scoring and PPR leagues.
The main area in which they’re excelling is preventing tight ends from scoring touchdowns. Only the Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, and the Steelers have given up fewer touchdowns than the 3 that the Vikings have allowed.
Freiermuth should be viewed as a top-10 TE for Week 14. He’s one of the top options outside of the studs you would start every week. If he’s still available on the waiver wire in any of your leagues, he could be an astute pickup — not only as a streamer for this week but into the fantasy playoffs.
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