The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Eric Ebron will break at least one significant Steelers tight end receiving record during his time in Pittsburgh.
Explanation: It can be argued that Ebron has the most talent as a receiver of any tight end the Steelers have had—at least during an era of the game, and the team, that emphasizes passing. Pittsburgh’s tight end history is not exactly on par with numbers put up by Rob Gronkowski or George Kittle or Travis Kelce, so it’s doable.
Here are the major numbers: 76 receptions, by Heath Miller, in 2009. Eight touchdowns, also by Heath Miller, in 2012. 942 yards, by Eric Green, in 1993. Green also saw 113 targets that year, another ‘record’. And here’s one more record: 100-yard receiving games. Heath Miller had four in his career. Ladarius Green, Jesse James, and Vance McDonald all have one.
It’s likely that Ebron hits at least one of these marks. He’s already had a 13-touchdown season in his history, just two years ago, so it’s not unreasonable to believe that he could catch nine touchdowns in a season. Hell, Jerricho Cotchery had 10 touchdowns on this team.
As for receptions, there’s room there. His career-high is 66. He recorded 750 yards that year as well, so that seems a bit far off. But Ben Roethlisberger has produced pairs of 1000-yard receivers multiple times, and Ebron could be used a lot.
It might be going a bit too far to say that Ebron is a one-hit wonder, but his 2018 season stands head and shoulders above anything else he’s done in his career, and even those numbers, outside of the touchdowns, don’t cut the mustard here.
Ben Roethlisberger loved to throw to Miller, but his numbers look somewhat pedestrian compared to what tight ends are doing today. And the Steelers have too many weapons at wide receiver, and like to use their running backs out of the backfield more than most teams as well, so, again, hard to bet that Ebron hits these marks. Even if he ends up playing more than one season here.