2023 Steelers Exit Interviews: Pat Freiermuth and Diontae Johnson
The Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 NFL season has come to a close. Because the Steelers are among the 31 teams who did not finish fulfilling their ultimate goal, they are in the process of wrapping up their season and moving forward into 2024.
Since the Steelers conduct exit interviews with all their players, and the fact I have done these articles in the past, we thought we would do the same here at Steel Curtain Network. By outlining two players each day, we will be able to look at their season in retrospect as well as looking toward the future. Since Coach Tomlin has previously stated he starts his interviews with rookies and those heading into free agency, we will attempt to do the same to some degree. To start, we will pair the most recent draftees with another player at the same position (if possible) as we work through this process to eventually cover the entire Steelers roster.
Next up are Pat Freiermuth and Diontae Johnson.
Position: Tight End
Years with the Steelers: 3
Years in the NFL: 3
Contract Status: Signed through 2024
Contract Details: $1,918,057 salary cap hit for 2024. Would cost the Steelers $436,033 in dead money if released and save $1,482,024.
Games played in 2023: 12 regular season
Games started in 2023: 9 regular season
Snaps (regular season): 474 (offense), 43 (special teams)
PFF score: 65.8 (25th of 72)
Notable stats: During the regular season, Freiermuth had 308 receiving yards on 32 receptions from 47 targets with 2 touchdowns.
Notes: Entering the last year of his rookie deal, Pat Freiermuth is a candidate to get an extension this year but it would likely cost the Steelers more against their salary cap. Freiermuth is coming off of his least productive year with the Steelers mainly because he missed five games due to injury. For this reason, Freiermuth had half as many touches as he had seen the previous two years and often had Steelers fans frustrated that he was not targeted more in the offense. Whether or not the Steelers extend Freiermuth this year or let him play out his final year remains to be seen. Also, seeing how much Freiermuth his utilized in the Steelers new offense will be quite intriguing.
Position: Wide Receiver
Years with the Steelers: 5
Years in the NFL: 5
Contract Status: Signed through 2024
Contract Details: $15,833,334 salary cap hit for 2024. Would cost the Steelers $5,833,334 in dead money if released and save $10,000,000.
Games played in 2023: 13 regular season
Games started in 2023: 11 regular season
Snaps (regular season): 590 (offense), 3 (special teams)
PFF score: 77.9 (25th of 128)
Notable stats: During the regular season, Johnson had 717 receiving yards on 51 receptions from 87 targets with 5 touchdowns.
Notes: Going into the last year of his current contract, Diontae Johnson could potentially be extended this offseason and would likely save some money against the salary cap. But Johnson‘s salary cap number is less than last year and it’s not unthinkable for him to simply play out his contract. While some fans are thinking Johnson isn’t a good fit with new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, these conclusions are highly debatable. With a knack for simply getting open, the type of receiver like Johnson is often coveted in any offensive system. Missing four games due to injury last season, Johnson’s numbers took a hit although he did find the end zone five times after not doing so in 2022. If he plays out his current contract, look for Johnson to have improved stats for 2024 as he looks to maximize his value on the open market.
Make sure you check back each day for another set of exit interviews. If you have missed any of the previous articles, they are listed here:
Broderick Jones & Chuks Okorafor
Joey Porter Jr. & Levi Wallace
Keeanu Benton & Montravius Adams
Darnell Washington & Rodney Williams
Nick Herbig & Markus Golden
Cory Trice Jr. & James Pierre
Spencer Anderson & Dylan Cook
Kenny Pickett & Mason Rudolph
George Pickens & Miles Boykin
DeMarvin Leal & Armon Watts
Calvin Austin III & Allen Robinson
Connor Heyward & Godwin Igwebuike
Mark Robinson & Blake Martinez
Najee Harris & Jaylen Warren