Eric Ebron’s career to this point has been somewhat of an enigma. The 10th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Ebron put up solid but unspectacular numbers during his first four NFL seasons despite playing with Matthew Stafford, one of the league’s most prolific quarterbacks over the past decade. And after having a breakthrough season in 2018 — earning Pro Bowl honors after catching a career-high 13 touchdowns — his numbers regressed dramatically last season, catching 31 passes and three touchdowns. Ebron will now get another fresh start in Pittsburgh after reportedly signing a two-year, $12 million deal with the Steelers shortly after the start of the league’s new year.
While his diminished statistics last season could be somewhat justified by the fact that he lost Andrew Luck just before the start of the season, The Athletic’s Bob Kravitz recently told 93.7 The Fan that the Colts feel that Ebron didn’t give them his best efforts when things started going south last season. After a 5-2 start, Indianapolis lost seven of their last nine games to finish with a 7-9 record. Ebron’s final season in Indianapolis also included controversy about that sidelined him for five games.
“I’m sure the Steelers did their due diligence, but the reason the Colts let him go is because they felt he quit on them this season,” Kravitz said. “He had, I think it was an ankle, that the team wasn’t even aware was an issue and then all of the sudden he said, ‘That’s it, I’m shutting it down.’ I remember asking Chris Ballard the GM, ‘What are you going to do with Eric Ebron?’ and he looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Yeah, we’re done with him. We’re moving on.’ So, if you get him in the right frame of mind, he’s a very productive guy. But he’s a little bit mercurial I guess is the word I would use.”
Ebron didn’t waste time addressing one of his critics shortly after signing with the Steelers, responding to a quote from an anonymous NFL scout that said that he is “the opposite of Heath Miller,” Pittsburgh’s former tight end who helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls during the 2000s. Ebron has faced questions throughout his career about his blocking as well as his lack of consistency catching the football. While he has made a slew of highlight-reel catches, Ebron has also had his share of drops, leading to criticism from fans and the media.
Regardless of what happened in Indianapolis, Ebron will get a clean slate with the Steelers, who are trying to maximize what could be the final two years of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. Pittsburgh is surely hoping that Ebron can help bolster a Steelers’ offense that finished dead last in red zone efficiency last season, a season that saw Roethlisberger miss 14 games due to an elbow injury.
Ebron’s departure from Indianapolis brings to mind a similar situation regarding another somewhat recent Steelers free agent acquisition. In 2015, after a messy departure from the Panthers, running back DeAngelo Williams inked a two-year deal with the Steelers. While he continued to be outspoken, Williams fit like a glove in Pittsburgh, gelling with the rest of the team’s veterans while making a significant contribution on the field. In 2015, Williams tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns while helping Pittsburgh clinch a playoff berth. His early contributions in 2016 helped the Steelers win the AFC North before falling one game shy of the Super Bowl.
The Steelers are hoping to have a similar success story with Ebron, who could turn out to be one of the biggest free agent bargains of the 2020 offseason.