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.
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.