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Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth: Offense didn't have hot routes with Kenny Pickett in 2022

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth might have peeled back the curtain on Matt Canada's offense more than the coaching staff would have liked during a recent episode of Ben Roethlisberger’s “Footbahlin” podcast.

Joining the Steelers great, Freiermuth compared the offenses Pittsburgh ran with Big Ben in 2021 and the 2022 version with Mitchell Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett, noting this season's attack didn't include hot routes called at the line of scrimmage.

"It's so different because we didn't have hots," Freiermuth said. "With you, how many times did we have a concept, and you looked (at Diontae Johnson) and gave a signal, and it'd be a 12-yard completion. We didn't have that this year."

The comment confirms the vanilla-style offense Canada ran in 2022, which led to constant calls for the OC's job from the fan base. Not giving young quarterbacks freedom at the line of scrimmage isn't something new -- many teams don't early in a player's career -- but it underscores limitations built into an already bland offense.

Freiermuth noted that instead of looking at the QB for checks like pass catchers did with Big Ben, players just ran their routes hoping to win.

"So instead of looking at you the whole time, we were looking at coverage -- like, I know what I'm supposed to do. It was almost too slow at first because you weren't anticipating. With you, we could see cover zero and you would give us a Ram (read away from Mike linebacker) route," Freiermuth said. "So that was probably the most different between the two.

Despite offensive struggles, the Steelers will bring back Canada for another season, in part to keep continuity for Pickett. The hope is in Year 2, the young signal-caller will continue to make the strides he showed late in the season.

"He was just so much more confident and so much more urgent and knew what he was gonna do," Freiermuth said of Pickett's improved play. "So it took him a little bit to get going, but he showed that he's the real deal."

Now, the real deal needs to have real freedoms at the line of scrimmage that come with being a franchise quarterback.

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