Eric Ebron a carbon copy of former tight end Heath Miller

Eric Ebron Carolina Tar Heels (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Eric Ebron Carolina Tar Heels (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Historically, the Pittsburgh Steelers have never been a team to make significant free agency signings. They have never utilized free agency to build their team.

When the Steelers do sign players, it is generally to fill a few gaps which they have not been able to address with the draft.  A perfect example is Ryan Switzer. Sometimes their free agency signings have paid huge dividends, such as James Farrior and sometimes they have been huge busts such as Donte Moncrief.

Then, in the 2020 free agency period,  the Steelers signed Eric Ebron. Ok, signing Ebron may not have been an attempt at building the team using free agency, though the results of his signing could appear that way.  The Steelers needed a tight end, and Eric Ebron fills that need. Taking a closer look, the Steelers may have another reason to sign Ebron. That reason is Heath Miller.

Heath Miller’s retirement in 2016 left a massive void in the Steelers Offense. Ben Roethlisberger sorely missed having an outlet receiver when the wide receivers were covered. It’s not that the Steelers had not addressed Miller’s eventual retirement. The Steelers drafted Jesse James as a replacement for Heath Miller. Yet, he never measuring up he left for the Detroit Lions in 2019.

They signed Vance McDonald to help to fill that void somewhat. Unfortunately, Roethlisberger’s 2019 injury left him underutilized. Thus the Steelers realized McDonald is not the player to fill the void left by Heath Miller. Enter Eric Ebron. If any free agent tight end can replace Heath Miller, Ebron maybe that player.

Similarities between former Steelers player Heath Miller and Eric Ebron

Heath Miller was a first-round draft choice in 2005. He is 6’5 and 256 lbs. He averaged 59.2 receptions per season and 656.9 yards per season. Also, he managed 11.1 yards per reception and averaged 4.5 touchdowns per season. Now let’s look at Eric Ebron. Another number one draft choice in 2014. He stands 6’4 and 253 lbs. Over his six-year career, he has averaged 47.16 receptions per season, with 532.5 yards per season netting 11.3 yards per reception and 4.5 touchdowns per season as well. Looking at the numbers, he is a near carbon copy of Heath Miller.

Yes, he has slightly fewer receptions and yards per season, but remember he played four years in Detroit.  One can argue he was somewhat underutilized in Detroit. The Lions have never produced many for hall of fame tight ends, except for Charlie Sanders, who played from 1968-1977.

Another case in point, Jesse James. In his four seasons with Pittsburgh, he averaged 2.42 receptions a game with 21.23 yards per game. In his one year with Detroit, these averages dropped to 1.68 receptions per game with 8.87 yards per game. This highlights the point the Lions never used Eric Ebron to his full potential. When Ebron played his first season in Indianapolis, he snagged 66 receptions for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns. Detroit’s coaches obviously missed the boat in utilizing Eric Ebron’s full capabilities.

Now the Steelers have Ebron for 2020. Big Ben now has his go-to outlet receiver. Thus, posing a difficulty for most defenses. When they try to double-team JuJu Smith-Schuster, then try to cover Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and Chase Claypool, this is going to allow Eric Ebron to slip downfield unnoticed. If they adjust and try to cover JuJu Smith Schuster one on one, it increases the chances they get burned at some point. When they do not need Ebron to snag a reception, with his size, look for him make a few blocks which should free James Conner for a long run upfield.

Next. 4 legendary Pittsburgh Steelers who finished their careers elsewhere. dark

While Eric Ebron may be far from being elected to the NFL Hall of Fame, he may be in an excellent position to help the Steelers make another serious playoff run.