Steelers' Eric Ebron has heard Ben Roethlisberger 'loves his tight end' and the feeling is mutual
Ebron will look to join the list of players that have had a successful partnership with Big Ben
Ben Roethlisberger has had a successful partnership with several skill position players over the course of his 16-year career. Among those players includes Hines Ward, Heath Miller, Santonio Holmes, Emanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell, James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Eric Ebron, a veteran tight end who recently signed a two-year deal with the Steelers, is hoping to join that list of players.
A 2018 Pro Bowler, Ebron caught passes from Matthew Stafford during his four-year run in Detroit, who took him with the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft. He caught 13 touchdown passes in 2018, the last year of Andrew Luck's career. Ebron will now look to have similar success with Roethlisberger, a player he says he has always admired from afar.
"I have always had this love for Big Ben," Ebron said during an interview with Teresa Varley, via Steelers.com. "One of my old high school coaches was the biggest Steelers fan ever, and biggest Tar Heel fan. I went to North Carolina and he was ecstatic. I would always be at his house and we would be watching Pittsburgh. I had this love for Big Ben.
"I am excited. I can't wait. Ben has earned so many stripes in this league. You know you are playing with a guy who is a winner. He is a fighter. He has played through so many tough injuries, done things to will his team to win, and won two Super Bowls. It's going to be fun to get to learn from him."
Ebron is equally excited to play for Mike Tomlin, the second-longest tenured head coach in the NFL. The youngest coach in NFL history to win the Super Bowl, Tomlin, who is embarking on his 14th season in Pittsburgh, has never had a losing season as head coach of the Steelers.
"I have so much respect for Mike Tomlin," Ebron said, "and it's because Mike Tomlin always takes all of the blame. It doesn't matter, any situation, anything. He is the type of coach you want to play for. He isn't going to sugar coat anything, he isn't going to make excuses. He knows that whatever happens on the field is a product of he is allowing it or teaching it. The team is always a representation of him. For him to want me to be a part of it, and me being a part of it, it's an honor. I have always loved Mike Tomlin. I have talked to him after games, when we had joint practices (while with the Lions), because he is that cool guy you always have a connection with."
Instead of drafting a tight end with the 49th overall pick (Pittsburgh's first pick in the 2020 draft), the Steelers will likely address another position after acquiring Ebron, the team's biggest tight end free agent signing since Pittsburgh signed former Chargers receiver Ladarius Green to a four-year, $20 million deal during the 2016 offseason. Green lasted just six games with the Steelers, however, as injuries forced him into retirement after his one year in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are obviously hoping to have better results with Ebron, who during his final season with the Colts.
"He's a premier type of receiving tight end in this league when he's healthy," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said of Ebron, via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It's hard to predict that, but when he's healthy, he's a solid contributor and he gives us another weapon in the passing game, for sure."
Ebron joins an offense that already includes Big Ben, Conner, Smith-Schuster, youngsters James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Benny Snell and fellow tight Vance McDonald, who was acquired by the Steelers via a trade with the 49ers just before the start of the 2017 season. While he's been a productive part of the offense since joining the Steelers, the 30-year-old McDonald has had health issues, missing eight games in three seasons.
The addition of Ebron should help reduce the workload of Conner, who was used considerably in the passing game in 2018, his first season as a starter. While he has proven to be a decent receiver out of the backfield (he caught 89 receptions and four touchdowns during the '18 and '19 seasons), Conner has also struggled to stay healthy, which is the main reason why the Steelers are expected to draft another running back with one of their first few picks in this month's draft. Pittsburgh is still expected to draft a tight end, likely who specializes in run blocking, something that is not considered a strong part of McDonald and Ebron's respective games.
While his presence will likely alter the dynamic of Pittsburgh's passing attack, Ebron is eager to gain a strong rapport with Roethlisberger, who is hoping to win another ring during his remaining seasons in Pittsburgh.
"I hope to be that safety blanket, that go-to, that loved tight end that everybody wants," Ebron said. "That is all you hear. That Ben loves his tight end. It's going to be pretty cool to see what we can do together. I have been texting him asking him as many questions as I can as early as I can. I want to pick his brain. If I can be his best friend and we can think the same, good things happen. That is really all I am trying to do."
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