The Pittsburgh Steelers had a few number changes late last week and it included rookie tight end Zach Gentry, the team’s fifth-round draft pick this year, switching from No. 83 to No. 81. After the team wrapped up their second week of 2019 OTA practices on Thursday we found out why Gentry suddenly switched numbers.
According to Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Gentry indicated this week that his number switch was precipitated by a request from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out of deference to the team’s former tight end, Heath Miller, who wore No. 83 during his long career with the Steelers that started in 2005 and ended after the 2015 season.
Gentry, according to the Rutter report, said “they asked me to switch” and termed it a “little shoutout” from Roethlisberger to Miller.
Curiously enough, Gentry indicated that he got to meet and talk to Miller while in Indianapolis for this year’s scouting combine as the former tight end was there along with former Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes serving as an event mentor for the young players in attendance.
“He’s the nicest guy I ever met,” Gentry said of Miller. “He helped me a lot.”
Obviously, Gentry, who wore No. 83 during his college career at Michigan, quickly obliged Roethlisberger’s “request” and now he’s wearing the number that was previously worn by tight end Jesse James, who signed with the Detroit Lions as an unrestricted free agent earlier in the offseason. Gentry, like James, is quite tall at 6-8 and thus it’s not hard to spot him in any group of players during the team’s OTA sessions.
Miller obviously isnt the last Steelers player to have worn No. 83 since Miller retired as former wide receiver Cobi Hamilton donned that digit a few years ago for several games. I’m guessing that was fine by Roethlisberger at the time being as Hamilton played wide receiver and not tight end. Is Roethlisberger also sending a subtle message to his new young tight end in suggesting that he hasn’t yet earned the right to wear Miller’s old number? Maybe, maybe not.
It will now be interesting to see how this very insignificant jersey number change news is received nationally once it starts to circulate. Personally, I won’t be surprised if some national hacks try to frame Roethlisberger’s request to Gentry to change numbers as him continuing to show he has an ‘owner’s mentality,’ like former Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown suggested is the case several months ago.
Regardless, for those of yinz that were initially upset that Gentry was issued No. 83 a few weeks ago, you can now rest easy knowing that it doesn’t look like any player will be donning Miller’s old number in 2019.