The Pittsburgh Steelers were the worst red zone offense in the league during the 2019 season. That seemed like a virtual inevitability, in hindsight, when you consider that not only did they spend the vast majority of the season with novice quarterbacks, but also after having lost their top red zone threat in Antonio Brown.
But Ben Roethlisberger is expected to be back in 2020, after having led the team to the best red zone offense in 2018, and new tight end Eric Ebron is hoping to help the cause in getting the Steelers’ red zone numbers back up to where they should be. Maybe not, perhaps, as high as they were in 2018, which was the highest mark by any team in several years, but in the top 10 at least, if not top five.
While Ebron certainly comes in with his question marks, one thing that cannot be denied is that he has produced. Over the past two seasons, he has 12 red zone touchdown receptions, which is tied for the third-most in the NFL during that span behind Davante Adams and Michael Thomas, both of whom are wide receivers. DeAndre Hopkins and Zach Ertz have also had 12.
“Red zone, that was an area I learned how to manipulate with the Colts and studied hard”, Ebron told the Steelers’ website recently. “I want to make as many plays to help the team get to that area, because if we can get to that area, we have an opportunity for points. It is my job to help us get to the red zone and run after catch is how you do it”.
Pittsburgh’s leading red zone target over the past two seasons has been their other tight end, Vance McDonald. He has seven combined touchdowns over the course of the past two years, with six of them coming in the red zone. That’s tied for 46th in the NFL during that span. In his last two seasons with the Steelers, Brown had 11 red zone touchdowns.
Ebron isn’t a huge target at 6’4” and 253 pounds, but the New Jersey native knows how to use his size and athleticism to his advantage and has the ability to make some impressive plays, even if he is just a likely to miss an easy one sometimes.
One thing that has helped him find success in the red zone is the fact that he is difficult for defenses to match up against. More often than not, he either has a size or athleticism advantage over whoever is covering him. That is how the Steelers are likely to exploit him in the offense in 2020.