After losing tight end Jesse James this offseason to the Detroit Lions in free agency, the Pittsburgh Steelers went on to select former Michigan tight end Zach Gentry in the fifth-round of the 2019 NFL Draft with hopes that they can quickly develop the one-time quarterback and especially as a blocker. With Gentry entering the team’s annul rookie minicamp as a very raw tight end, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked during his Saturday afternoon post-practice media session how much growth the 6081, 265-pound player has ahead of him with him being so inexperienced at the position.
“It’s reasonable to expect him to get a lot better and do so in a short period of time, but we’ll see,” Tomlin said.
In essence, the Steelers have a similar raw and undeveloped piece of clay in Gentry that they had in James when they drafted him in 2015 out of Penn State. James entered the NFL at 6070, 261-pounds and with 33-inch arms while Gentry enters his rookie season after measuring in at the annual scouting combine at 6081, 265-pounds. With the later entering the NFL at 6’8″, Steelers tight ends coach James Daniel was asked after the team selected the Michigan product if he has much much experience teaching a 6-foot-8 guy how to stay low and if he’s previously worked
with anyone as big as Gentry.
“Matt Spaeth was pretty tall guy,” Daniel said. “So, you know he’s a little taller than Matt. But, we’ve had some guys that have had good length.”
While James never became a premier blocking tight end with the Steelers during his four seasons in Pittsburgh, he gradually improved every season. Based on how James progressed as a blocking and receiving tight end in his first four seasons in the NFL, it’s reasonable to expect that Gentry’s ceiling might be where James currently is as a player.
While James did make the Steelers 53-man roster as a rookie, he was one of the team’s inactive players for the first half of the regular season. Gentry, assuming he makes the Steelers 53-man roster, might also not dress for games early in his rookie season as well and especially if he can’t contribute much on special teams.
“He has some adjusting to do,” Daniel said of Gentry after the Steelers had selected the tight end. “He can become a good blocker, I think. But, I think the kid is excited about it and
The Steelers rookie minicamp will wrap up on Sunday and if he we do get to hear from Daniel again at some point during the team’s OTA practices, it wuill be interesting to hear him comment some on whatever progress, if any, Gentry has made since he was drafted. Judging by the small video clip below from the Steelers Friday rookie minicamp practice, Gentry is already receiving some early kudos from his position coach.