Steelers Urged to Pursue 2-Time Pro Bowl Tight End

Mike Tomlin

Gety The Steelers could pursue veteran tight end Jared Cook in free agency.

The Pittsburgh Steelers could be in the market for another tight end.

According to Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox, two-time Pro Bowl tight end Jared Cook is a veteran the Steelers should pursue in free agency. Knox notes how the Steelers could use depth at the tight end position behind Pat Freiermuth, who is entering just his second season in the league.

“There’s plenty of depth at most positions, but Pittsburgh could use another receiving tight end as both insurance and to complement Freiermuth,” says Knox. “The Steelers added tight end and fullback Connor Heyward in the sixth round, but he projects as more of an H-back and rotational player than a dedicated pass-catcher.”

Knox goes on to mention how Cook can help rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett develop as he did for the Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert last season.

“Cook played a big role in helping second-year quarterback Justin Herbert emerge as a Pro Bowler in 2021, and he could help guide Pickett as a member of the Steelers,” says Knox.

Cook Has Played With Some of the Best QB’s

Cook has made a career out of being a journeyman tight end. The 35-year-old initially entered the NFL with the Tennessee Titans back in 2009 and has since started for the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, Las Vegas Raiders and the New Orleans Saints.

The veteran tight end has played with some of the best quarterbacks in the league, including Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Derek Carr. That type of experience will only help in a situation such as the Steelers’ one.

The 13-year veteran caught 48 passes for 564 yards and four touchdowns last season as the Chargers’ starting tight end. According to Pro Football Focus, Cook produced a 61.9 offensive grade, ranking 42nd among all tight ends with at least 20 receiving targets. However, it was only as recently as the 2020 season that Cook produced a 71.9 offensive grade. He also produced a 75.9 offensive grade in 2019 and a 75.5 grade in 2018.

By comparison, Freiermuth posted a 72.3 offensive grade, ranking 11th among all tight ends with at least 20 receiving targets last season.

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Why the Steelers Could Utilize Cook

While the Steelers are already set at tight end in the starting lineup, they could use a secondary tight end to take the pressure off the second-year Freiermuth. Pittsburgh utilized 12 personnel — two tight-end sets with two wide receivers and one back — on only 16% of their plays last season.

But with veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out of the fold and a rookie QB in Pickett possibly in the lineup, the Steelers could utilize the formation more often and use Cook as an extra safety blanket.

With veteran Eric Ebron out of the equation, Pittsburgh currently has Zach Gentry as their primary backup option. Gentry started 12 games last season as mostly a blocking tight end, but has just 20 receptions for 171 yards and zero touchdowns through three seasons of his Steelers career.

In other words, Pittsburgh has a hole for an experienced tight end and Cook can fill that void.

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