The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Rookie tight end Zach Gentry will spend some time as a healthy scratch in 2019.
Explanation: While the Steelers are likely to carry only three tight ends into the 2019 season, with Gentry being one of them, his relative inexperience and the lack of necessity for three tight ends could lead to him being inactive at times as a rookie even if healthy.
It’s quite possible that it plays out this way if the coaching staff decides that Gentry is not ready to be put out on the field and also doesn’t have much value on special teams. Gentry did contribute on special teams in college at Michigan, but not in a consistent or regular role.
While it’s unusual to dress only two tight ends, the Steelers have plenty of recent experience in doing so, particularly in 2017 with Vance McDonald missing several games, and in last year’s season opener. But Xavier Grimble has also been a healthy scratch in recent seasons at times when his special teams play has been below the line.
Add in the fact that the Steelers love themselves some tackle-eligible, which may actually end up playing more than an inexperienced number three tight end, and you have a legitimate recipe for seeing Gentry on the bench while healthy.
While Gentry may still need a lot of polish, he is nevertheless the tallest target on the roster—short of Alejandro Villanueva who can get upfield, and the offensive coaching staff can find some situational usage for that. Say, oh, I don’t know, perhaps in the end zone.
While the Steelers have on rare occasions dressed only two tight ends with the third being a healthy scratch, it’s fair to say that their preference is to have three, and at least at this point in the offseason, it doesn’t appear likely that they are going to add another tight end who is capable of making the roster to make it four tight ends in total on the 53.