One of the most exciting things about the 2020 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers will be to see what sorts of personnel combinations the offense comes up with and how they use them. The real threat, for example, of using a balanced two-tight end set has many intrigued—including the reporters who constantly ask the relevant parties about that possibility.
The prospect of the two-tight end set had set imaginations alight ever since the team signed Eric Ebron in free agency, agreeing to terms on a two-year contract worth $12 million. This is, after all, a pass-catching weapon that just two seasons ago caught 66 passes for 750 yards for 13 touchdowns in a Pro Bowl performance.
After meandering through a season of Nick Vannett as the second fiddle to a wounded Vance McDonald, the prospect of getting those two on the field together in 2020 with Ben Roethlisberger equipped to throw to them has been the subject of much discussion, and Ebron himself was asked about it yesterday.
“I would run two-tight end sets all the time”, he told reporters. “It’s just because in my mind, for me, it makes it makes life so much easier. But at the same time, we can’t run both of us into the ground and expect us to be dominant all year long. So, that’s my preference”.
Ebron of course has some familiarity with running out of two-tight end sets—he played with Jack Doyle with the Indianapolis Colts, for example—but while there, he had a set role, and even acknowledged that they didn’t have him on the blocking sled, seeing him as a pass-catcher.
“I love two-tight ends but at the same time, we have to mix things up and we have to give teams different looks and different things to plan for”, he continued in his answer. “So, as much as they need us to run two-tight end sets, I’m well-equipped and ready for it and continuously trying to get better at understanding the two-tight end system. And other than that, man, I just look forward to winning with this team and with Vance. Vance is an awesome tight end. I’ve learned a lot from him”.
The Steelers have been working hard with the tight ends during training camp, especially since the pads have come on, with head coach Mike Tomlin perpetually hovering over the group. They have a vested interest in making sure they have a pair of dual threats who are equally accountable for blocking and receiving, to maximize their effectiveness when they’re both on the field.
We’re not going to see them play 500 snaps together or anything like that. The Steelers rarely run more than a few hundred snaps with multiple tight ends on the field in recent years. Their predominant package will be three receivers, and they may even use more four- and five-receiver sets. But having Ebron and McDonald out there together will be one of the many variations on their offense that they will have at their disposal this year.