While Chase Claypool continues to make noise and attract attention in training camp, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ biggest addition this offseason was the signing of tight end Eric Ebron in free agency. The seventh-year pro will help to add a new dimension to the offense, not just as a receiving threat, but with their ability to run from traditional two-tight end sets.
Even though the bulk of his questions earlier today consisted of some variety of Ben Roethlisberger’s conditioning and performance, offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner did manage to address some other topics pertaining to the offense, and touching on Ebron’s presence served as his finale.
“Eric’s exciting because he’s a been-there, done-that guy in this league”, he said about bringing in the former first-round talent. “He has a very skillful set that obviously lends itself to the passing game. He can be a mismatch concern for linebacker types, strong safety types”.
The North Carolina product is a great athlete for the position, posting a 4.6-second 40 time at the Combine, with long arms, big hands, and good size, generally. He can make some dynamic and impressive catches…even if he drops some easier ones.
“We’ve tried to be very intelligent about where we put him and not overdo it too quickly to where he can’t play fast”, Fichtner said. “If there was a guy that you would’ve loved to have in OTAs and minicamp, that would’ve been very helpful and useful for him, as well as their connection, him and Ben”.
“But he does have a skillset that is very unique”, he continued, referencing a true pass-catching tight end in the Steelers’ offense. “He can catch the football, that I can promise you. He can snatch a ball. He’s pretty strong at the catch point, he can separate. There’s a lot there to be excited about”.
As recently as 2018, Ebron posted 66 catches during the year for 750 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Granted, that was a career year, but when healthy, he is always good for 500-plus yards, often enough more than 700 yards. And with Roethlisberger throwing him the ball, he can certainly be a presence in the end zone.
That’s what the Steelers are counting on, and is the reason that they signed him even though they knew that they didn’t have a ton of wiggle room as far as cap space goes. They are hoping to develop a productive two-tight end package this season paired with Vance McDonald as well, to give him greater flexibility from the standard three-receiver norm.
First and foremost, however, he and Roethlisberger have to get on the same page, and that’s what training camp has been about. They haven’t had many opportunities over the course of the offseason to work together, and the only way to build that rapport is by putting in the work.