On the surface, the Steelers’ signing of Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron is either going to be a home run or nothing.
It looks that way on the surface, because that’s exactly the case.
Although, at tight end, I’d settle for a hard single up the middle. That’ll be fine, too.
Those that covered Ebron in Indianapolis and Detroit paint him as a brooding, ball-hungry, inconsistent, drop-prone malcontent that likes to block as little as he likes to play through injury.
Colts reporter Kevin Bowen of 107.5 The Fan: “(The Colts) were really fed up with Ebron around early November this past season.
This wasn’t a guy who was on the injury report at all (in 2019). Maybe one time in training camp. Then all of the sudden he goes on injured reserve (ankle) after the Thursday night game against Houston (Nov. 20).
And it was a surprising move to the Colts. They didn’t think the injury was that severe at all.
I just think they were disappointed in how Ebron handled that. There were questions about his playing time in the weeks leading into that as well. His role had diminished in terms of a target standpoint and impact with Jacoby Brissett as well. I think those were all factors if that was playing into the reasoning about him ending his season when the team has hit some adversity.”
Detroit sports anchor (WXYZ) Justin Rose on 93.7 The Fan Monday: “He gets to the NFL and his ego got in the way. He thought he was going to show up and be a good player.
He was just (a guy) you couldn’t rely on. He had so many dropped footballs. He was an enigma. The fans just started hating on him. Sarcastic cheers when he did make a catch. He just wasn’t a reliable guy.
He’ll take on anybody on Twitter, especially Detroit media. He can’t block anybody. But he’ll pancake you with a nasty remark if you say anything bad about his game.”
But, when Ebron is engaged and committed, he’s a 6-foot-4, 253-pound athletic threat that can put up 13 touchdowns in a season and can make plays like these.
If that version of Ebron comes to Pittsburgh, he’d be a major asset to a red zone offense that only clicked at 35%. That was the worst in the NFL in 2019.
Obviously, the return of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger should help, too. When he was healthy and on the field in 2018, the Steelers red zone offense was the best in football at 73%.
Beyond that, Ebron’s presence will allow the Steelers to run more two tight end sets. And, given Vance McDonald’s injury history as the incumbent starter at the position, Ebron will be a better buffer if (or when) McDonald gets hurt than what the franchise had in 2019 with Nick Vannett.
Furthermore, given that there is so much uncertainty surrounding the Steelers wide receiver position, Ebron can mitigate any further struggles from their development. And may even lessen the need to draft one with their first pick at No. 49.
And he certainly eliminates the need to draft a tight end.
Speaking of which, if the Steelers did draft a tight end, is there any certainty that a rookie would’ve been any more prepared to be a positive contributor than Ebron, or less of a question mark?
Becuase of McDonald’s frequent injuries, tight end was a glaring need. Even when McDonald did play, he wasn’t that productive working with Mason Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges.
McDonald had only three touchdowns, never exceeded 40 yards, and only had five or more catches in a game twice in 2019.
What other options did the Steelers have to fill that hole?
Hunter Henry got the franchise tag from the Los Angeles Chargers. They weren’t going to outbid the Cleveland Browns for Austin Hooper at $42 million. The Baltimore Ravens were willing to trade the Steelers Chris Wormley. They wouldn’t have traded them Hayden Hurst. And I certainly wouldn’t have paid $15.5 million over two years to the oft-injured Tyler Eifert as the Jacksonville Jaguars did.
Compared to that, I’ll take Ebron at two years and $12 million. Sure.
If Ebron doesn’t work out, then he’s Ladarius Green. Or Jon Bostic. Or Donte Moncrief.
One and done.
“It’s not that Ebron is some major, major diva,” Bowen continued. “When adversity starts to rise up and things don’t go his way that can be an issue.”
Honestly, though, if the Steelers didn’t sign Ebron, wouldn’t they have been in trouble at the position anyway?
Should we be concerned about how well Ebron is going to work?
Yes. We should be. Should we be skeptical about how well he handles his time here if he’s unhappy with the results?
Are the Steelers still better off giving him a shot?
You can hear our full conversation with Bowen here.
For as critical as he was of Ebron, he actually thinks Pittsburgh may be “a good fit” for him.