Eric Ebron's time with the Colts did not have the best of endings. A year after making his first Pro Bowl, Ebron, who has signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Steelers, caught just 31 passes and three touchdowns in 2019, his final season in Indianapolis. Ebron's final season in Indianapolis also included controversy about that sidelined him for five games. The Athletic's Bob Kravitz recently told 93.7 The Fan that the Colts think 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.
"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, via social media, responded to Kravitz's report, saying that he never quit on the Colts.
"Never quit (on) an injury I (had) been playing with since August," Ebron wrote. "Ask Ballard the truth. He wanted me to play hurt and I wasn't ... I was limping into football games, limping out of practice JUST TO PRACTICE! … I gave Indy my all, always will."
Ebron also 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. Although 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, the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft, will get a clean slate with the Steelers, his third team after spending his first four seasons with the Lions. Pittsburgh is trying to maximize what could be the final two years of Ben Roethlisberger's career. The Steelers are 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 because of an elbow injury.
Ebron's messy 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 signed a two-year deal with the Steelers. Although 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.
Two decades earlier, Jerome Bettis was acquired via a trade after things went south between Bettis and the Rams, the team he won Rookie of the Year honors with in 1993 before falling out of favor with then-Rams coach Rich Brooks. Bettis enjoyed a career resurgence in Pittsburgh, rushing for 1,431 yards in 1996 while leading Pittsburgh to its third consecutive AFC Central division crown. Bettis retired as a Super Bowl champion nine years later and received a bronze bust in Canton, Ohio, in 2015.
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.