With less than weeks remaining until the Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 regular season opener against the New England Patriots it’s obvious that the team could still use an upgrade at the tight end position behind Vance McDonald and Xavier Grimble. Even Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin indicated after Tuesday’s practice that he’s hoping to see more out of his tight end group in the team’s Thursday night preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers.
“Not enough,” Tomlin said when asked what he’s seen from his tight ends so far this preseason. “You know, and some of that’s been due to the lack of availability. You know, Scotty’s [Christian Scotland-Williamson] missed some time and he’ll have an opportunity to come back this week. Zach Gentry has missed some time and so, you know, time missed is critical, obviously, And in terms of opportunity, a lot of those guys are getting the opportunity to lean in on it here at the end, so there’s big time urgency there.”
Knowing that McDonald is unlikely to play Thursday night and quite possible Grimble as well, the Steelers tight ends against the Panthers look to be Zach Gentry, Christian Scotland-Williamson if he’s healthy, Kevin Rader, Trevor Wood and Micky Crum, who didn’t even play this past Sunday night after being signed to the roster a few days prior to the team’s third preseason game.
Quite honestly, Rader, Wood and Crum are all extreme long-shots to make the Steelers 53-man roster regardless of how well each should play Thursday night and the same probably goes for Scotland-Williamson, who is probably ticked for the extra practice squad spot again this year as an International Pathway Program player. In short, it’s likely Gentry, the teams fifth-round draft pick this year, or look elsewhere out of town.
Gentry played this past Sunday night after sitting out the team’s second preseason game with a minor injury and caught one pass for 15 yards. He had another high targeted pass go off his hands late in the game and that football wound up being intercepted. While Gentry has shown encouraging signs as a run blocker so far this preseason, with that sample size being just 12 total plays it’s hard to draw hard conclusions at this point. He’s also been adequate on the few special teams snaps he’s played.
Unless the Steelers make a last-minute trade or signing, Gentry will likely be the team’s No. 3 tight end on the 53-man roster. They’re sure to be scanning the waiver wire in the coming days for a tight end and likely talking to a few teams looking to deal one that they’re planning to cut. Assuming they ultimately go that route, both Gentry and Scotland-Williamson would likely be on the 11-man practice squad to start the season.