Pittsburgh Steelers Draft Countdown: Making the Case for Eric Ebron

Andrew WatkinsCorrespondent IApril 16, 2014

North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron fights for yards as Boston College defensive backs Dominique Williams (9) and Al Louis-Jean Jr. try to tackle in the second half against Boston College in an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. North Carolina won 34-10. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

It’s no secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would welcome the addition of a big-bodied, physical receiver via this year’s draft.

One who fits the bill would be Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. Unfortunately for the Steelers, it’s growing increasingly unlikely that Evans will slide to their 15th overall pick.

Others like Kelvin Benjamin, Allen Robinson and Donte Moncrief certainly have the frame the Steelers are presumed to be targeting. However, each of the trio has his own issues that has him pegged as providing poor value for the Steelers’ Day 1 pick.

Still, Pittsburgh could stand pat in the draft and land a dynamic pass-catcher that would pay immediate dividends. It wouldn’t be a receiver though.

Instead, the Steelers should take a long look at standout North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron. Provided Ebron makes it past the Giants at the No. 12 slot, he should be on the board when the Steelers are on the clock.

Ebron's been projected to the Steelers in several mock drafts, including WalterFootball.com's latest.

No, with incumbent Heath Miller secured through 2016, tight end isn’t exactly Pittsburgh’s most pressing need. But, then again, wide receiver is considered to be a major need by many pundits.

If Ebron can contribute on the level of a first-round receiver, why shouldn’t the Steelers pick him?

As mentioned in a post earlier this month from ESPN’s Scott Brown, his colleague Matt Williamson follows that line of thinking. He included Ebron on his list of potential top-flight receivers at the next level:

While Ebron lacks the height and bulk of Graham or Rob Gronkowski, he might possess better pure speed. This guy can truly stretch the field like few NFL tight ends. Ebron is fluid and smooth, but he also has an instant acceleration burst. He is versatile in terms of his alignment on the field and should be an instant-impact tight end, as he is noticeably above average in all receiving categories for an incoming prospect.

Ebron’s production speaks for itself. He fell just 27 yards short of 1,000 in 2013. Even more impressively, the 250-pounder managed over 15 yards per catch.

That’s an eye-popping average for a tight end and is indicative of Ebron’s big-play potential. His three receptions of at least 58 yards (two of 70-plus) this past season further drives home the point.

Sep 7, 2013; Chapel Hill, NC, USA;  North Carolina Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron (85) celebrates a catch during their game against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Liz Condo-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest knocks on Ebron is his ability as a blocker. Of course, having just turned 21, Ebron has plenty of time to improve.

If paired with Miller, he’d have a great mentor to help him grow as a blocker. Not to mention that Miller would be able to compensate for Ebron’s lackluster blocking in the interim. As most Steelers fans well know, Miller isn’t shy about getting his hands dirty.

Speaking of Miller, he struggled to regain his Pro Bowl form in ’13 after tearing his ACL to close the previous season. Whether or not that was an aberration is unclear, but regardless, the 31-year-old’s career is closer to the end than the beginning.

Not only would Ebron provide Miller’s ultimate replacement, but he’s also talented enough to make an impact in the passing game as early as his rookie year.

Adding Ebron to a talented group of young skill players in Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell helps better the Steelers’ title chances as they head into the twilight of Roethlisberger’s career.