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: While not immediately, Zach Gentry will end the season having been moved to the practice squad.
Explanation: With the Steelers having acquired tight end Nick Vannett, they now have four players at the position on the 53-man roster, in addition to three on the practice squad. While the team has certainly rostered four tight ends in the past, it’s become evident that they’re not yet comfortable with giving Zac Gentry, the rookie fifth-round pick, much playing time at all.
Let’s face it. He was a healthy scratch for the first two games, and he would have been a healthy scratch on Sunday had the Steelers not had three players among the inactives because of injuries, those being special teams mainstays Roosevelt Nix, Anthony Chickillo, and Vince Williams.
With Vannett being brought in, it’s a lock that Gentry will be a weekly inactive once Vance McDonald returns to health. He’ll be on the roster and active until then, and that means that, in the interim, the Steelers will have to release somebody else.
But as the position returns to full health, Gentry will look exceedingly expendable. Even though McDonald’s injury is not seen as one that is long-term, the acquisition of Vannett was made following an assessment of the quality of the group. And the low man on the totem pole is the one that gets exposed 99 times out of 100.
As mentioned in the explanation, the Steelers have plenty of recent history in carrying four tight ends on the 53-man roster, and it seemed to be a legitimate possibility entering the 2019 season, had they elected to acquire a tight end, as time has proven that they should have.
The Steelers like Gentry and knew that he would be a long-term project. That is somewhat different from being simply the low man on the totem pole. He is being afforded a redshirt year, not wanting to expose him to waivers.