The Steelers added several key pieces this offseason. Here’ why Bleacher Report believes tight end Eric Ebron will be the biggest X-Factor in 2020.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are never a team to really make a big splash in free agency. Occasionally, they will strike gold on a free agency signing like Ryan Clark or Alejandro Villanueva without spending big. They may have done so again last year with the addition of former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback, Steven Nelson.
This year, Eric Ebron has a chance to be that guy for the Steelers. Though some expected that he would receive a contract in which his yearly value would top $10 million, Pittsburgh was able to lock him up on a two-year, $12 million deal with just a $3.5 million cap hit in 2020, according to Over the Cap.
Recently, Bleacher Report labeled an X-Factor for all 32 NFL teams for the upcoming season. For the Steelers, it was tight end, Eric Ebron. Here’s some of what Kristopher Knox had to say about his choice:
"It was a sneaky-good move that could pay off in a big way. Roethlisberger already has a solid tight end target in Vance McDonald, but adding Ebron could allow for some explosive mismatches at the position.With perimeter targets like JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Diontae Johnson occupying defenses, McDonald and Ebron should have plenty of one-on-one looks in the middle of the field. Ebron proved two seasons ago that he can turn such opportunities into points. While Ebron took a step back in 2019 with Jacoby Brissett under center for the Colts, he caught 66 passes for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018. Adding that sort of firepower to what he already has available could set Big Ben up for a monster comeback season."
Knox points to Ebron’s top-notch season back in 2018 as a big reason why he could be the ultimate X-Factor for the Steelers this year. With Andrew Luck at the helm in 2018, Ebron earned 66 catches, 750 yards, and a whopping 13 touchdowns.
Is Ebron the X-Factor we’ve been waiting for?
All the while, Ebron played just 56 percent of snaps while splitting work with Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox at tight end. Similarly, Jesse James and Vance McDonald also split snaps in 2018, but McDonald grossly outproduced James – more than doubling his production.
With the return of Ben Roethlisberger and an athletic option at the tight end position, it’s not hard to envision why Ebron could quickly become an X-Factor for the Steelers this season. Though McDonald will still get his fair share of work, most of his duties will likely come in-line next to the tight end. Ebron, however, could be used much like a big slot receiver with his size advantage over the middle and his ability to stretch teams vertically.
Despite entering the NFL a year later than McDonald, Ebron’s 27 touchdowns are nearly doubled what Vance earned in the first seven seasons of his career. If nothing else, Ebron provides a massive red zone target over the middle when the Steelers get close to the goal line.
With a plethora of options to choose from this year, Ben Roethlisberger should be able to make things happen on offense. We saw how good a receiving tight end like LaDarius Green was for such a short stint with the Steelers. Perhaps Ebron could be that player over the middle Green was meant to be.