The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
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 is now TE2, the second-string tight end behind rookie Pat Freiermuth.
Explanation: The second-round pick has played more snaps in each of the first two games. He is proving to be a reliable pass-catcher, as well, whereas Ebron, who may offer more splash potential, is not, and has already missed a couple of opportunities to make plays to help out quarterback Ben Roethlisberger this year, going back to the preseason.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said last week that he was campaigning to get Pat Freiermuth on the field more. Then he was magically targeted. He caught four passes last week, on four targets, albeit for 36 yards. His first catch was for 14 yards on 3rd and 5. Very nearly all four of his catches resulted in positive plays for the offense. The only one that came up short was a five-yarder on 3rd and 6. He bounced off of one defender but took a good whack to stop his forward momentum as he stretched out for the sticks. One fewer defender and it would have been a huge play.
Freiermuth is showing himself to be capable of doing everything that Ebron offers, plus more, because he is a willing and able blocker. He may not be a finished product yet, but he is a more well-rounded and more reliable player, and that’s what the Steelers—and Roethlisberger—want out of the tight end.
Ebron has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, certainly, but this offense has yet to establish any kind of rhythm. Ebron will get worked into things and start making the clutch plays that he was having last year. He’ll drop one here and there, as well, but it happens, and it’s offset by the big plays he can make as well.
Freiermuth will be the top tight end, perhaps sooner rather than later the way things are going. But he isn’t just yet, regardless of what snap counts through two games might say, which were dictated by circumstantial factors. We may be having a very different conversation several hours from now if he makes a few plays today, or if Freiermuth has some rookie moments, which are inevitable.