Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for 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 move forward.
Player: TE Zach Gentry
Stock Value: Up
What this means is not that Zach Gentry played well when he was given the opportunity at the end of Sunday’s game, when both Vance McDonald and Xavier Grimble left with injuries. What it does mean is that, because of the previously mentioned casualties, we are probably going to be seeing Gentry continue to get a hat, at least for a little bit, and perhaps some opportunity to play as well.
The fifth-round rookie out of Michigan was a healthy scratch for the first two games of his rookie season, but was able to dress on Sunday because of multiple injuries at other positions. He didn’t really play until late in the game, and he had his predictable rookie struggles, particularly in his limited work as a run-blocker.
Should he be asked to play, however, my expectation, or at least my hope, is that his role would be oriented more toward the passing game, because he is clearly more comfortable performing in that function right now than he is as a blocker. He could be of some use in the red zone especially, where he caught a touchdown pass in the preseason from Mason Rudolph.
While Grimble was placed on the Reserve/Injured List, McDonald has not been ruled out to play against the Bengals; however, head coach Mike Tomlin warned that if he does play, there is a good chance he will be limited.
Considering that the only other tight end on the roster is Nick Vannett, whom they just acquired via trade, it should be safe to assume that Gentry will have an opportunity to play, or at least I would assume.
He did tell reporters this week that he was excited about a possible expanded role and that he feels he’s come a long way in a short amount of time, now comfortable in the offense. He believes he will be able to rotate into the game in order to help out if called upon.
Still, I’m not sure I want to see him run-blocking against Carlos Dunlap one-on-one. That has three-yard loss written all over it.