Former Steelers Tight End Seen as ‘Best Fit’ for AFC North Rival

Eric Ebron

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Eric Ebron of the Pittsburgh Steelers scores a touchdown as Kyzir White of the Los Angeles Chargers defends on November 21, 2021.

Ex-Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Ebron remains unemployed, despite the fact that most NFL training camps will already be open this time next month. But that doesn’t mean the former first-round pick (Detroit Lions, No. 10 overall, 2014), doesn’t have something to offer the right team in a backup role.

That’s the opinion of Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report, who includes Ebron among his 10 Best Unsigned Players Under 30, calling him a “best fit” for the Cincinnati Bengals, with the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings being second and third options.

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Eric Ebron Is in Search of His 4th NFL Team

Of course, Ebron will never again see a contract as rich as the one he got from the Steelers in 2020 — a two-year, $12 million deal. That’s because he never came close to living up to expectations in Pittsburgh, appearing in a total of 23 games (with 12 starts), during which time he caught 68 passes for 642 yards and six touchdowns. That includes just 12 catches and 84 yards in 2021, a season cut short by the knee injury he suffered in Week 11, which forced him to finish last year on injured reserve.

But if he’s healthy, Ebron could offer some value as a backup pass-catcher/red zone threat, assuming he’s willing to accept a veteran salary benefit contract — or similar.

“Put him in an offense with several playmakers ahead of him in the pecking order, and he’ll be an excellent value,” insists Wharton, without noting that Ebron has 33 career receiving touchdowns to his credit, highlighted by the 13-touchdown campaign he authored in 2018 while a member of the Indianapolis Colts (2018-19).

If nothing else, Ebron seems to have learned from past mistakes, and is well-aware his best days in the NFL are behind him. Recall that he gained a reputation as something of a troublemaker as a member of the Lions and Colts, taking a swipe at both organizations after signing with the Steelers.

But he didn’t complain about the lack of targets he received in 2021, and went out of his way to praise rookie second-round pick Pat Freiermuth, who caught 60 passes and scored seven touchdowns (per Pro Football Reference), demonstrating the potential to be Pittsburgh’s starting tight end for the next decade.

The Steelers also look to be in good shape in terms of depth at the position, with fourth-year man Zach Gentry penciled in at TE2, and rookie sixth-round pick Connor Heyward, Kevin Rader and former Packers third-round pick Jace Sternberger competing for one remaining spot.

Ebron Will Count $3.9 Million Against Pittsburgh’s 2022 Salary Cap

As for Eric Ebron, he may be gone but he’ll not be forgotten, at least until he comes off Pittsburgh’s books in 2023. This year he will count $3.904 million in dead money against the Steelers’ salary cap, representing the fourth-highest dead money figure on the team’s cap ledger, behind quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (retired), wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (now with the Kansas City Chiefs) and defensive end Stephon Tuitt (retired).

Ebron’s dead money results from the re-worked contract that he inked in March 2021, which added four voidable years to his existing deal.

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