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 be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2022.
Explanation: The former Pro Bowl tight end signed a two-year contract in 2020, which runs through the 2021 season. In his first year with the team, he caught 56 passes for 558 yards and five touchdowns, but he is a below-average blocker and has a documented history of dropped passes.
Nobody will dispute that Ebron is a flawed player when you take into consideration the full compass of his performance, but what he does well sets him apart. He is very much capable of being an impact receiver, not just in terms of making splash plays, but also in making key plays, chain-moving plays, something that we did see last year.
$6 million per season is a reasonable price to pay for what Ebron brings to the table, something that could certainly be even more valuable in Matt Canada’s offense, which will presumably last beyond the 2021 season.
Given that they have virtually nobody else at the tight end position behind him following the retirement of Vance McDonald, they can’t really afford to let him go. Even if they draft one in the first round, he may take time to develop—and would be on an affordable contract, anyway.
If you look at the Steelers’ recent history of free agent signings, it quite frankly could be a lot better. A lot of them only last one year on multi-year deals. Even another tight end, Ladarius Green, who signed for four years. There was Jon Bostic and Mark Barron. Stefen Wisniewski didn’t even last one year. Morgan Burnett, another four-year contract gone after one.
Ebron will almost surely finish out his two-year contract, but the prospect of him being retained beyond that is very much up in the air. After the 2021 season, this team has a chance of looking very different, maybe even in the dreaded ‘rebuilding’ phase, and they’ll want a fresh start with a reliable player.