The Pittsburgh Steelers are fresh off of a Week 3 victory over the Houston Texans. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has seen some real success going to the air so far this season, helping lead the Steelers to their current 3-0 record. While wide receivers like JuJu Smith-Schuster have carried a hefty responsibility for the passing success, the solid play of tight ends has stood out as well. Specifically speaking, Eric Ebron has been on a hot streak and has built some real momentum with his offensive production. If he can continue to build on this as the season progresses, then the tight end position for Pittsburgh could be a difference-maker later in the year.
Eric Ebron’s production and stats so far in 2020
Ebron’s stats from Sunday were solid. It wasn’t a record-setting game by any means, but when his number was called, Ebron was a reliable target for his quarterback.
Ebron ended the day with an Offensive Value Metric (OVM) grade of 33.55, making him one of the top contributors to the Sunday afternoon victory. Other top producers for the Steelers offense on Sunday included receivers James Washington (30.93 OVM) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (53.90 OVM). Through the first three weeks, Ebron has an excellent overall OVM season grade of 34.28 — the third highest production grade so far on the Steelers offense.
Eric Ebron’s Offensive Value Metric
The Offensive Value Metric (OVM) was created to provide a numerical scale to measure the overall value that an individual player provides to his offensive unit. A player with a higher OVM grade isn’t necessarily a higher skilled player, but they do create more offensive production for their team than a player with a lower OVM.
Ebron didn’t get a ton of touches on Sunday — he was only targeted seven times. But when you look at the type of offense he was able to great with just those seven opportunities, it’s easier to see the type of value that is added with him in the huddle.
Ebron had his highest catch completion percentage for the year this past weekend bringing in five receptions for a 71.4% completion. He averaged 10.40 yards of offense per reception (a total of 52 yards) and brought in a touchdown. Overall, a solid day for the tight end.
The second quarter touchdown that Ebron caught from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was astounding. Ebron faced heavy coverage from Texans defender AJ Moore inside the end zone and was able to use his physicality to get just enough separation to bring in Roethlisberger’s 10-yard pass. He secured the catch, got both feet down, and fell backwards into the back right pylon for six points. NFL NextGen Stats graded this play with just a 30.1% chance of completion, making this one of the top improbable catches of Week 3.
There’s been consistent, good production from Eric Ebron so far in 2020. He’s averaging roughly 12 yards of offense per reception on the year and is playing with a level of reliability that you would come to expect from a seven year veteran. He’s sharing the workload of the tight end position with Vance McDonald, but after being on the field for 72% of the offensive snaps so far this season, his production has dominated McDonald’s.
The momentum needs to continue for Ebron
Moving forward, the Steelers should continue to lean on the passing game. The running backs haven’t been anything to write home about so far — James Conner and Benny Snell have attributed a combined average OVM of just 11.36 on the year. The receiving group of Smith-Schuster, Claypool, Ebron, and Washington are carrying the weight of the offense right now and are in a groove.
Back in August, I wrote about the potential that Ebron could bring to the Steelers offense if he was able to stay healthy and produce. It is still very early on in the season, obviously, but the trends are all pointing in the right direction. His OVM production grades and yards per reception so far this year are all right in line with his stats from his Pro Bowl 2018 season.
With the amount of speed and talent in the Pittsburgh wide receiver room right now, I’m not expecting to see an increase in targets for Ebron. However, if an injury or two starts to loom, there should be more pass attempts thrown in his direction. And after that incredibly impressive end zone play on Sunday, I wouldn’t be surprised to see another touchdown or two added to the stat sheets over the next couple of weeks.
If Ebron can keep up this positive trend of consistent momentum, it’s most definitely going to make things a little bit easier as the season progresses.