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 be a healthy scratch for the duration of his rookie season, barring injury.
Explanation: While the Steelers like to carry and dress three tight ends (they have even gone with four in the past), they have also not hesitated to sit one if necessary. Jesse James sat for the first half of his rookie season, and they have had Xavier Grimble as a healthy scratch for a couple of games in the past. Rookie Zach Gentry was a healthy scratch in the opener.
There is a caveat that has to be addressed off the bat. The topic statement can be true even if he dresses for the next several games, because the Steelers are now dealing with an injury to fullback Roosevelt Nix that could sideline him for weeks.
If he indeed misses time, which seems inevitable, then it’s almost assured that Gentry would get his helmet. Grimble or Vance McDonald may be featured as the lead blocker if the Steelers ever run with such, but they did not on Sunday. McDonald did line up in the backfield on one play initially before flushing out to the line of scrimmage.
The way the roster is constructed, and with their desire to dress six wide receivers if possible, it seems likely that Gentry will continue to ride the bench this year unless it becomes necessary for him to dress. He missed time in training camp and the preseason, and that was as a player already coming in raw. Even Grimble barely played on Sunday.
While Gentry is currently raw, he has the ability to develop as the season progresses and to put himself in a position to dress. He did play some special teams during the preseason, so that will help his cause. It’s really not outside of the realm of possibility that he could even take over the number two spot.
To that end, I cite the fact that the Steelers didn’t run a single two-tight end set all day on Sunday, and Grimble played just one snap that I could find. They’re clearly not sold on what he’ll bring to the table as the number two. Gentry can at least go up and get a ball with his 6’8” frame, even if he doesn’t know what he’s doing.