It might not always feel like it, and it has certainly been flawed with crucial blemishes in the forms of dropped passes and some blocking that leaves much to be desired, but tight end Eric Ebron is somewhat quietly having a productive season in his first year with the Pittsburgh Steelers, something that the team has lacked from the position for years now.
Coming into Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, Ebron recorded 51 receptions on 84 targets for 511 yards and four touchdowns. By the time he scored his fifth touchdown of the season early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game, he recorded another four receptions for 37 yards, now on track to best the 2018 season of Vance McDonald.
That year, McDonald, at the time in his second season with the team, had a career year in which he caught 50 passes for 610 yards and four touchdowns. That is the only season in his four years with the team in which he has caught at least 300 yards.
Jesse James, who spent four years with the team between 2015 and 2018, recorded a career-high 423 receiving yards in his final season with the team. Between James and McDonald, the position had over 1000 receiving yards that year, but it was an outlier for sure.
Ebron’s 2020 season is just the second time outside of McDonald’s 2018 season in which any Steelers tight end picked up at least 500 yards in a single season since Heath Miller accomplished that in his final season with the team in 2015 before retiring.
Ebron’s five touchdowns are the most by any Steelers tight end since Miller recorded eight touchdowns all the way back in 2012—he had just six touchdowns combined in his final three seasons, including two during the 2015 season.
The Steelers gave Ebron a two-year, $12 million contract in order to come in and make plays. In spite of all of the warts in his game, which were well-known well before he signed, he has done that, and he has made big, crucial plays throughout the season, which is why he is on schedule to be targeted more than 100 times this year, a first for any tight end on the team, again, since Miller in 2012.
In all, Ebron finished yesterday’s game with five catches for 47 yards and the score, giving him 56 catches for 558 yards and five touchdowns. That’s the third-highest reception total, the fourth-highest yardage total, and tied for the second-most touchdowns he has had over a season in his seven-year career, and he could move up in some of those marks with another solid game in the finale.
Oh, and for just the third time in his career, he is on track to play at 16 games. Health had been one of the concerns teams had about him in free agency, but he’s been able to stay on the field this year, despite taking his nicks.