2020 Offseason Questions: Will Eric Ebron Help Improve Red Zone Offense?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Will Eric Ebron help improve the Steelers’ red zone offense?

This is a complicated question. The Steelers had the best red zone offense in 2018, and the worst in 2019. The former was by far the best showing of Ben Roethlisberger’s career not likely to be duplicated, while the latter was done almost entirely without him, so the ‘true’ reality of their red zone offense must fall somewhere in between. That makes it difficult to quantify how much a player can ‘improve’ what is not clearly known.

But we’ll take a swing at it anyway, shall we? After all, last season, the Steelers scored just 14 red zone touchdowns out of their 25 total offensive scores. That is fewer than one per game. A year ago, they scored 51 touchdowns on offense, with something like 35 of them coming inside the red zone. Literally more than twice as many in both categories.

They aren’t going to score 35 red zone touchdowns, but they had better well get more than 14, as well. Of Ebron’s 27 touchdowns over the course of his career, 21 have come in the end zone, including 13 over the past two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.

Antonio Brown was a big red zone threat for the Steelers in 2018 and prior to that. They didn’t really have anybody else as a receiver who offered similar, but perhaps Ebron can be that target. It would also be helpful if James Conner could stay healthy, who scored 11 red zone touchdowns in 2018.

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