The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t exactly have money to burn this offseason. In fact, they had to make some major moves in terms of roster cuts and contract restructures just to get under the salary cap before they could even consider the possibility of adding outside free agents.
Still, they found some pocket change to add some new players to the mix, the most notable among them being Eric Ebron, the seventh-year tight end who is just two seasons removed from a Pro Bowl year in which he caught 66 passes for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns working with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis.
More of a receiving tight end than the Steelers are accustomed to—although they did deviate from their profile when they signed Ladarius Green in 2016—Ebron is working on adjusting to the team’s expectations, which includes doing more sled work than he has since college (“you think you get rid of it when you get to the NFL, but I guess not”, he said, referencing coach James Daniel as an old-school sort), but what will be principally asked of him is to contribute in the passing game.
“I’m just here to just be another chess piece”, he told reporters over the weekend when discussing his role within the offense as a weapon. “It’s easy to cover our receivers when you don’t have to really pay attention to anyone else. You just play two-high and cover both of our outside receivers. So, I feel like I pose a threat in the middle of the field that one, is going to help our receivers to have one on one coverage and hopefully they win”.
Ebron has caught 283 passes over the course of his career for 3195 yards and 27 touchdowns. He averages about 55 catches for 616 yards and five scores per season when prorated over full 16-game seasons. That’s what he is looking to bring to the table at a minimum.
“I feel like our receiver group is going to be good, especially with Ben back”, he said. “That cohesion that him and JuJu has built over the years and some of these other guys that has been here for a while. I don’t know who’s all been here as long as Ben’s been here, because he’s been here a long time. But it’s just that your quarterback and your receivers and adding me to that is just going to make that group, our air game, that much better. So, hopefully it shows”.
It won’t just be Ebron alone, but also Ebron in tandem with Vance McDonald, that will color the offense in a new way this season. They have never had a pair of receiving tight ends in team history. Only a couple of times ever have they produced 1000-plus yards in a single season from the position. This pair could easily clear that.