On Sunday night Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Ebron had arguably his most impactful game of the season, catching three passes for 24 yards and a touchdown. But he also suffered a knee injury, one that could keep him out of the lineup for the extended-term.
According to Jeremy Fowler, senior NFL reporter for ESPN, Ebron is expected “to miss extended time as he braces for potential knee surgery, per source.” However, he is getting a second opinion before moving forward with a procedure.
Considering that it’s Week 12, the injury could mean that we’ve already seen the last of Ebron in a Steelers uniform, as he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. There seems little reason for the team to try to re-sign him, especially now that rookie second-round pick Pat Freiermuth looks like the long-term answer at tight end.
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This season Ebron has 12 catches for 84 yards and the one touchdown, as per Pro Football Reference. In 2020, he caught 56 passes for 558 yards and five touchdowns, decidedly underwhelming numbers for a player on a two-year, $12 million deal. Worse yet, this past spring the Steelers added four voidable years to his contract to reduce his salary cap hit for 2021, according to overthecap.com. As a result, he figures to count $3,904,000 against next year’s salary cap, even though he will almost certainly be playing elsewhere in 2022.
In late October, Ebron indicated that he was “not going to say anything” about the lack of passes being thrown his way this season, perhaps trying to minimize his reputation as a complainer, as he ended up at odds with management during earlier stints with Indianapolis and Detroit, the latter of whom selected him No. 10 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Kevin Rader Promoted to the 53-Man Roster
Adding credence to the notion that Ebron will be out of the lineup for an extended period is the fact that the Steelers promoted tight end Kevin Rader from the practice squad to the active roster.
Rader, 26, was previously elevated to the roster for Week 9 and had one catch for one yard against the Chicago Bears. He was signed to the practice squad at the start of the 2021 season after being released on August 31, 2021.
Rader—a Pittsburgh native who played his college football at Youngstown State—first signed with the Steelers early in the 2019 offseason and spent the majority of that year on Pittsburgh’s practice squad. In 2020 he again spent most of the year with the practice squad but also saw time on the active roster. Thus far in his career he has appeared in two regular season games and has played a total of 25 snaps, with 12 of those coming on special teams.
Rader will now serve as Pittsburgh’s third-string tight end for the forseeable future, behind Freiermuth and backup Zach Gentry.
Tight End Jace Sternberger Signed to the Practice Squad
Meanwhile, the Steelers filled Rader’s spot on the practice squad with tight end Jace Sternberger, 25, a former third-round pick of the Green Bay Packers (2019) who has appeared in 18 career games. All told, he has recorded 12 receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown. Sternberger, who played his college football at Texas A&M, also has played 143 career snaps on special teams, as per PFR.
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