Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: TE Zach Gentry
Stock Value: Up
I somehow missed discussing rookie tight end Zach Gentry throughout this entire series, it just dawned on me as I started to write. But it shouldn’t be a great surprise. The last time I wrote about the fifth-round pick, multiple people mentioned that they had forgotten the Steelers even drafted him.
Not exactly the ringing endorsement that the rookie would like to hear, but such is life in the NFL for an unheralded mid-round draft pick. At best, Gentry should function no better than the Steelers’ number three tight end in 2019, and that is assuming that he even regularly gets a helmet on gameday, which is no guarantee. Technically, he is not even assured to make the team.
Let’s get this out of the way first: it’s not uncommon at all for fifth-round picks to fail to make the Steelers’ roster. Granted, they had two last year and both made it, but there was also Shaquille Richardson and Terry Hawthorne and Chris Scott. Others may have made the team but only lasted one year or less, such as Wesley Johnson.
But there is a clear opening on the roster for the number three tight end, and his competition doesn’t exactly jump off the page at you. He is currently battling Christian Scotland-Williamson, who has only been practicing football for two years, Trevor Wood, a rookie undrafted free agent who is also a long snapper and didn’t play much in college, and Kevin Rader, the most ‘accomplished’ of the group, and he has never even been on a practice squad.
Gentry has a 6’8” frame that he is bulking up. He has only been playing tight end for a few years, but has shown flashes of what he could be. And arguably the biggest news regarding the rookie that we have heard this offseason is that there has been some indication that perhaps he may be more physical than they feared, which is what he’ll need to be to function as a third tight end.
He should have plenty of opportunities for playing time during the preseason, so I imagine we will get some long looks at the tall tight end in August. Will he impress? We know that he has some receiving ability, but if he can’t block, expect the team to try to bring in another name.