Dec 28, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron (85) gets tackled by Cincinnati Bearcats safety Arryn Chenault (25) during the third quarter in the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium. Carolina defeated Cincinnati 39-17. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina's Eric Ebron Could Serve Dual Role For Pittsburgh Steelers If Drafted

The Pittsburgh Steelers have many positions to address on their “To Do” list for the future stake of this franchise.  One that keeps cropping up, yet seems to be continually overlooked is who will be Heath Miller’s backup and eventual replacement once Miller becomes too old or banged up to play for the Steelers?

The front office decided to go with the ol’ “Bring Back Former Player X” bandaid from their playbook by re-signing the likes of Matt Spaeth last season.  He is in no way the long term solution.  Second year man, David Paulson, is also on the outside looking in when it comes to being the kind of presence the Steelers offense needs their TE’s to be.  The team must look to the draft this year with some very prime talent at the TE position waiting to be gobbled up.

North Carolina’s Eric Ebron had about as good a combine as a hopeful draftee could have.  Ebron earned top performer at his position in the 40 yard dash (4.60!) and in the broad jump.  He was noted to impress during his other drills, and became quite the popular TE over the weekend.  The Steelers may also have been impressed with Ebron.  It is unknown if the team already had plans to meet with the former Tar Heel, but nevertheless, it was reported via Twitter that the team did indeed meet with Ebron.

Feb 22, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; North Carolina Tar Heel tight end Eric Ebron gets ready to run the 40 yard dash during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Ebron’s greatest skills are his techniques at being a receiver: route running, outstanding hands, great agility for his size, big catch radius.  His largest weaknesses are struggling to block off the edge, locking up bigger defensive ends, and has a tendency to lack focus.  At age 21 and with raw natural ability, those things can be groomed out of a player such as Ebron.  Some scouts feel he is not ideal in size, but at 6’4″ and 250lbs., Ebron almost matches completely the cut of Heath Miller (6’5″, 255lbs.).

Where I think Ebron would be a huge pick for the Steelers at the 15th overall is the simple fact that he is fast, agile, and can catch as well as any wide receiver out there.  This could serve as a big advantage for the Steelers and may take some of the pressure off of nabbing a fast and tall receiver like Texas A&M’s Mike Evans before anyone else does.  Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin could put the Degree antiperspirant away in that first round with no pressure of having to trade up to nab Evans or FSU’s Kelvin Benjamin.  I’m predicting those guys will go early, and the Steelers would need to be very aggressive in a trade or lose out.

However, they can potentially create a win win situation with Ebron.  Ebron, in the same way that TE’s like SF’s Vernon Davis and most recently the Broncos Julius Thomas, could line up in the slot position or even all the way to the outside and become a third or fourth receiver in a double TE package.  He could be a nightmare for a nickel corner, inside linebacker and for safeties if he is left to streak down the middle or run and out up the sideline while everyone is looking for Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, and don’t forget Heath Miller running rountes underneath.  Obviously, Ebron in no way could replace a receiver, especially someone like Evans or Benjamin.  But I strongly feel he can serve a dual role with Pittsburgh if the front office decides to pass on a tall receiver and shore up the TE position.

The Steelers could keep Spaeth as the blocking TE specialist and let he and Paulson duke it out for the third slot behind Miller and Ebron.  With the addition of Ebron that gives Ben Roethlisberger five solid targets to throw at during a game – something very comparable to what Pey Pey Manning has with the Broncos (Super Bowl Stinker aside):

Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Jerricho Cotchery, Heath Miller, and Eric Ebron.  Sounds pretty good to me, and I’d buy into that.


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  • [email protected]

    Five solid targets to throw to, but that won’t help if we never get our hands on the ball because the defense continues it’s downward trend. Although Ebron is one of the few offensive players that could potentially change my mind, I firmly believe we have to go D with our 1st rounder. I know we don’t draft for need, and that Ebron is an excellent talent, but we are so weak in the secondary and D line that I don’t think we could afford to NOT draft either a CB, FS, or DE (not a NT in the first round – 3rd or 4th round for that). Couple that with what everyone is saying is one of the deepest WR classes in years, and to me this is not an optimal pick.

    • Craig

      Trust me – this was not an easy write. But, I’m starting to shift in the mind set that the Steelers need to go big or go home with their offensive needs this season. A ‘deep’ class won’t cut it. They need highly impactful players on that offense. I think in a way, with will help take some of the pressure off the D and give us a bit more breathing room if the Steelers can consistently put up a much higher number of points per game than they did last season. Somewhat circumvents the defensive problems in round one, but I’m still in on this pick.

      • [email protected]

        Craig, I can appreciate the logic behind using more O to keep the Steelers D off the field, but passing doesn’t buy the blow that our D could use as much as a solid running game (chew up the clock rest the D) and I don’t see us returning to that type of game plan with Ben around. It gets old hearing people use the logic “Don’t take a D player 1st round, it’ll take LeBeau 9 years to get him on the field”. That’s similar logic to “Why brush my teeth when I’m only going to eat again in 5 hours”?!!!! The biggest takeaway from ANYTHING this year in the NFL was that good D STILL beats good O, and soundly based on the SB. And I don’t think they will allow LeBeau (who I admire) stockpile players when our front-liners are almost as old as he is. If we don’t start rebuilding the D now (and I don’t think we need as much on D as a lot of people think) we are dooming ourselves to multiple losses in the wild card/divisional round based on us making the playoffs on the back of our explosive offense. How’d that work for Green Bay this year? Detroit? Atlanta? No my friend, Seattle showed that you HAVE TO have the D or as you put it ‘go home’.

        • Thumper833

          Yup. Better get on that D now or we are going to be hurting. The longer you wait to draft the longer you wait to see results. The TE can be gotten in a later round or even next year.
          If they truly feel they need to get a receiver or TE in R1, I trust their judgement, but D all the way is my opinion.

        • Milliken Steeler

          Irish, I think because of how deep this draft is, I think both ways could be successful.

          For example, if we decided to snatch Ebron and without Watkins being there I honestly am skeptical about anyone else as Adams worries me maturity wise,

          If we did go O in the first round we can go maybe.

          1st Ebron TE
          2nd Fuller CB
          3rd round comp? ILB Shane Skov
          4th Justin Ellis DT
          5th Jeff Janis WR 6’3″
          5th round comp? S Tre Boston
          6th OLB Shembo
          7th RB Rajion Neal

          See the balance? Now we have Miller, Spaeth and Ebron at TE
          We resign Dwyer cheap and we have Bell, Dwyer and Neal who I think is a sleeper. We resign Cotchery and we now have Brown< Cotch, Wheaton,Moye,Brown and the 6'3" Janis who runs a nifty 4.4 forty, to compete at WR. Look at our already improving offense now, to go along with Munchak coaching up the O-line.

          On defense, we now have Fuller at CB to compete at DB. Skov at ILB to add to the mix at ILB. Tre Boston to compete at safety and Justin Ellis to compete on the defensive line.

          There are cheap FA's out there such as Mick Collins of the Packers. If we cleared him medically, I bet he would play with a non guaranteed contract and he comes from a similar defense and could help out at safety for a couple of years.

          If we are smart, we can get healthy real fast.

          • [email protected]

            Milliken – I like it!!!! You are actually the first person that has been able to make a DETAILED case to me for going O in the first round (most just want to draft a receiver and say we need to outscore the other team!!). We think pretty similarly with the draft overall by position as well, although I have a few different names:
            1. Justin Gilbert, CB (perhaps no longer realistic, although we get Dennard instead)
            2. Davante Adams, WR
            3. DeAnthony Thomas, RB
            4. Daniel McCullers, NT
            5. Ken Ladler, FS
            6. Prince Shembo, OLB
            7. Whoever (haven’t got that far in yet!)
            Who is Rajion Neal? As you can see, we both get a NT which is supercritical in my mind (and it solves our DE departures by moving McClendon to DE where his pass rushing can kick in), we get a RB, a CB (I was impressed by Fuller on the combine broadcast), a FS and a receiver (yours is a TE, mine a wide-out). If we take Nix in the first, I think that’s a waste – not that he’s not a good player, just bigger needs at that pick. One area of disagreement – not so sure we really need to take an ILB this year – I want to see how Spence comes back, and see Williams with another year (although I don’t see him as the ultimate ILB answer). If Spence can come back to anywhere near where he was we’re set.

          • Milliken Steeler

            Rajion is a four year running back out of Tennessee. He is 5-11 & 212 lbs. His last years stats at Tennessee are 215 carries for 1124 yards which is a 5.2 YPC average. and he rushed for 12 TD’s. He also had 27 catches with no TD’s receiving.

            He runs a 4.4 to a 4.5 40 and in my opinion is a great risk in the 7th round at RB. I could have snatched the Talented Colvin at CB at of Oklahoma in the 7th round so we had a back up plan next year when he comes back from injury however, I have faith in the Fuller pick in the second round and we could use some more competition at RB,

  • Carl Eagan

    Not real sure how a broad jump is going to help anybody on the field in pads but the reality is that unless Tomlin is ordered to go with the no-huddle from the first game It’s idiotic to draft a tight end who can’t block and just wants to run the same routes as a wide receiver it would get Ben hurt. I watched Ebron on many occasions and he takes too many plays off when he knows the ball isn’t going to him to be a real value.

  • Patrick Mccue

    Why would steelers draft WR rd 1? We have the best track record for finding top WR talent in later rds. Brown, Wallace, sanders! Think of it like this… Antonio brown didn’t get shut down once last year by some great corners like joe Haden. Megaton considered the very best WR was shut down twice. Brown may end up a top 3 receiver in this league. If we draft Evans in 3 years we will not be able to afford two top receivers and a 1st rd talent will become a cap casualty . Think of how many 1st rd picks steelers had playing at one time. Hampton, Troy, Ben, miller, pouncey, hood, Hayward, decadtro, We would be better taking top TE and using two TE sets and in two years when Heath is finished his replacement will be groomed. Evans is the sexy pick not the smartest one for the long term.

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