Tar Heels in NFL: Ebron has hard time dealing with reduced role, memory of playoff loss to Browns

By R.L. Bynum

In Eric Ebron’s mind, it will be a revenge game for his Pittsburgh Steelers when they visit the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

In a wild-card playoff game last season against the Browns, Pittsburgh tried to rally from a 28-point first-quarter deficit but fell short. The Steelers’ season ended with a 48–37 home defeat.

“They whooped our ass at our home and sent us home,” said Ebron, in his eighth NFL season. “If you all can’t get motivated for that, you probably shouldn’t be playing football.”

Ebron has dealt with a reduced role this season with the addition of Steelers rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth but he’s doing his best to make the most of it.

“My reputation is, I’ve always said something,” Ebron told reporters after a practice this week. “So, for me, this time, I’m not going to say anything and I’m going to let my tape and my coaches work for me.”

He only has seven catches for 47 yards for the season, but scored on a one-yard touchdown run off of a jet sweep during their Week 6 23–20 win over Seattle. The lack of targets isn’t sitting well with him, though.

Ebron, who had 56 catches for 558 yards and five touchdowns last season, has gone from averaging 3.7 catches per game in 2020 to less than a catch a game this season. Freiermuth has 18 catches on 20 targets for 158 yards and one touchdown.

He admitted that it’s hard to stay quiet.

“It’s hard as f**k,” said Ebron, whose contract expires at the end of the season. “It’s not my life. I want to be a professional. I’m an adult. I’ve got two kids and I’ve got a wife, people that I lean on and talk to. It’s not only about my image anymore and how I portray myself. It’s the way I think about the people around me. My job is to come here and do what I’m asked to do, and I’ve been doing that to the best of my ability and I think it shows.”

Miami’s Mack Hollins got a big late touchdown catch Sunday that would have been a game-winner if not for a last-second Atlanta field goal.

He’s as frustrated as any Dolphins player that the team is 1–6 but showed one reason why he’s one of Miami’s captains when he was asked about the tough season and the six-game losing streak.

“When you start losing games, it’s easy to get in that sulking ‘boo-hoo’ kind of mood,” Hollins said. “But it’s important to make sure you still have high energy because once you see the top dog quit, after the lead dog, everybody else is going to follow.”

The rough few games have led to criticism of Coach Brian Flores. But Hollins said that Flores has been steady throughout the season.


“I don’t think Flo has changed,” Hollins said. “I think, at least for me as a player, how I always like to be coached is somebody who is consistent. If you get a guy that is an ass when you are losing and is this upbeat guy when you are winning, it turns into poor coaching. And we don’t have that. We have a coach that is going to stay consistent.”

New Orleans left tackle James Hurst continues to be one of the best pass-blockers in the league. For the season, Pro Football Focus gives him an 85.0 pass-blocking grade, which ranked fourth in the league. That’s slightly up from 84.8 and fifth in the league before last weekend.

Chicago linebacker Robert Quinn missed the Bears’ blowout loss to Tampa Bay last weekend because he was on the COVID-19 list. He still is on that list headed earlier this week but was activated Friday and is expected to play in Sunday’s home game with San Francisco.

Washington wide receiver Dyami Brown didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday as he tries to recover from a knee injury and Friday was ruled out for Sunday’s game at Denver against former UNC teammate Javonte Williams. Brown worked with the training staff on a side field both days, though.

When Tar Heels play in Week 8

Giovani Bernard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back
at New Orleans, 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Season statistics — 6 games, 4 rushes, 21 yards; 19 catches, 102 yards (5.4 average, longest 32 yards), 2 TDs, 1 fumble
Dyami Brown, Washington wide receiver
at Denver, 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Season statistics — 6 games, 8 receptions on 20 targets, 81 yards (10.1 average, longest 22 yards); 1 rush for -4 yards
Michael Carter, New York Jets running back
vs. Cincinnati, 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Season statistics — 6 games, 58 carries, 202 yards (3.5 average, longest 14 yards), 2 TDs; 17 receptions, 131 yards (7.7 average; longest 17)
Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers tight end
at Cleveland, 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Season statistics — 6 games, 7 reception, 47 yards (6.7 average, longest 19); 1 rush, 1 yard, 1 TD
Charlie Heck, Houston Texans right tackle
at Arizona, 4:25 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Season statistics — 5 games, 3 starts; 192 offensive snaps, 10 special-teams snaps
Cole Holcomb, Washington outside linebacker
at Denver, 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Season statistics — 7 games, 41 tackles, 23 assists, 2 tackles for losses, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception
Mack Hollins, Miami Dolphins wide receiver
at Buffalo, 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Season statistics — 7 games, 7 catches, 84 yards, 1 TD; 3 special-teams tackle; 1 tackle
James Hurst, New Orleans Saints left tackle
vs. Tampa Bay, 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Season statistics — 6 games; 3 starts; 148 snaps, 21 special-teams snaps
Robert Quinn, Chicago Bears outside linebacker
vs. San Francisco, 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Season statistics — 6 games, 15 tackles, 4 assists, 6 sacks, 4 tackles for losses, 3 QB hits, 1 forced fumble
Andre Smith, Buffalo Bills weakside linebacker
vs. Miami, 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Season statistics — 4 games, 2 special-teams tackles, 1 special-teams assist
Chazz Surratt, Minnesota Vikings weakside linebacker
vs. Dallas, 8:20 p.m., Sunday, NBC (WRAL in Triangle)
Season statistics — 4 games, no statistics
Mitchell Trubisky, Buffalo Bills quarterback
vs. Miami, 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Season statistics — 2 games; 2 of 2 passing for 9 yards (longest 8); 10 rushes for 27 yards (longest 22), 85.4 passer rating
Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos running back
vs. Washington, 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Fox
Season statistics — 7 games, 69 carries, 320 yards (4.6 average; longest 49 yards), 1 TD; 20 catches, 122 yards (6.1 average, longest 17 yards)
On injured reserve
M.J. Stewart, Cleveland Browns safety (hamstring injury; eligible to return Week 9)
On practice squads
Jake Bargas, Minnesota Vikings fullback
Myles Dorn, Minnesota Vikings safety (played 10 special-teams snaps on Week 2)
Dazz Newsome, Chicago Bears wide receiver
Antonio Williams, Buffalo Bills running back
Out for the season
Jalen Dalton, New Orleans Saints defensive tackle, suffered season-ending triceps injury
Ryan Switzer, Cleveland Browns wide receiver, had ankle surgery Aug. 20

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