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: Zach Gentry will make the 53-man roster as the number three tight end (whether he plays much or not).
Explanation: The Steelers did not address the tight end position, with the loss of Jesse James, in free agency, and ended up lasting until the fifth round in the 2019 NFL Draft before selecting Zach Gentry out of Michigan at the position. Gentry has a limited history at the position, and fifth-round picks are far from roster locks, but there is also not a lot of competition.
The only other tight end who really seemed to be capable of giving him much of a challenge was Christian Scotland-Williamson, who has even less experience playing the position, but he is still sidelined with a soft tissue injury. At the moment, it appears unlikely he will play in the second preseason game, and he may not see much time in the third game, either.
Kevin Rader somewhat literally fumbled his best chance away, and there is a reason that Trevor Wood played at the end of the first preseason game. As for Gentry, he performed as expected, if not better, making a couple of solid catches—including elevating for a touchdown—and his run blocking showed potential. They know there’s something to develop there, and won’t let that go.
The biggest threat to Gentry’s job security is a trade scenario, which is quite possible. The Steelers have made at least one trade every year for the past several years, now, and tight end would be the position at which it makes the most sense.
He could be the third-best tight end in camp, but that doesn’t guarantee a roster spot if they’re not happy with the quality of play. that is what happened in 2017 when Vance McDonald was traded for, which ultimately bumped David Johnson.
If Scotland-Williamson can get himself back on the field, then he can still make a run at the roster as well. Mike Tomlin had been quite pleased with his growth prior to his injury and seemed frustrated talking about his lack of availability.