As more lists of the top players at their positions are getting cycled through heading into training camp for the 2021 NFL season, we continue to scour the lists looking for members of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pro Football Focus has been shooting out their lists left and right as of late as teams are in the OTA stage of the offseason.
And here comes my standard PFF disclaimer yet again as they continue to prove why it’s needed:
It seems like I can’t write an article about PFF without giving the typical disclaimer of how their projections can be highly questionable. Even their grading of players after the fact can be picked apart, so expecting them to do well in the prediction business is not something which I’m ready to bet the farm on based on their conclusions.
The next position on a list given by Pro Football Focus is tight end. According to PFF, the Steelers’ Eric Ebron comes in at number 25.
Travis Kelce— PFF (@PFF) May 22, 2021
PFF's ranks the top 32 TEs in the NFL ahead of the 2021 season ⤵️https://t.co/gY6ajCW0GB
Exactly what put Ebron in the 25th spot is described below according to PFF:
We were fans of the Ebron signing last offseason for Pittsburgh given what he could offer as a receiving threat in that offense. He was coming off five-straight seasons with receiving grades of at least 65.0, but that dropped to 58.4 in the lowest-graded season of Ebron’s career in 2020. He was one of the victims of the Steelers’ unimaginative passing attack last season. His drops (seven) did the unit no favors, though. Ebron’s 40 drops since 2014 are more than any tight end in the league.
Unsurprisingly, PFF can do their best to still be high on a player yet still have to take a shot at the Steelers whenever they can. But as majority of Steeler fans know, to describe the Steelers passing game last year as ‘unimaginative’ is not much of a stretch.
One aspect of Ebron’s 2020 season which PFF did not take into account was how the majority of his drops came later in the season after both injury and a high number of snaps. Ebron logged 766 offensive snaps in 2020 which was the most in his career. It was more than 100 snaps greater than Ebron played in any season in Indianapolis and the first time he reached 700 snaps since in 2016 while with the Detroit Lions.
In looking at the AFC North representation on the list, Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews was in the highest position as he landed sixth on the list. Cleveland Browns tight and Austin Hooper checked in at 17th while the Cincinnati Bengals were not represented.
A player who failed to make the list really and piqued my curiosity was Steelers second-round draft pick Pat Freiermuth. With 2021 fourth overall draft pick Kyle Pitts skying high to the fourth position on this list, Freiermuth failed to land of the top 32 even though he was the next tight end off the board in the 2021 draft.
When it comes to the Steelers tight end position for the 2021 season, it will be interesting to see exactly how they benefit from a new offensive coordinator. Will Ebron thrive more in the system? Will two tight ends be used more where Freiermuth comes on the scene as a rookie? These are things many Steelers fans would like to like to have the answer to, so expecting Pro Football Focus to have any clue as to what is going on and take it into account would be asking a bit much.