Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, 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 season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
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
Not that this was a good draft for tight ends, or that the Steelers had a lot of draft picks, but it goes without saying that the Steelers not drafting a tight end is good news for Zach Gentry, the team’s fifth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Michigan product came into the league necessarily raw, considering that he entered college as a quarterback, and he only played a couple dozen snaps during his rookie season across the small handful of games for which he dressed.
The fact that he only dressed for a few games, and the fact that the Steelers never had more than three tight ends on the 53-man roster at any time of the season, really speaks to just how little confidence the coaching staff had in him being able to contribute last year.
Of course, the team addressed the tight end position in a significant way this offseason with the signing of Eric Ebron in free agency, agreeing to a two-year, $12 million pact. He and Vance McDonald set up to offer the offense the best pass-catching duo they’ve ever had—if they’re healthy, and have a passing game.
Considering that both McDonald and Ebron have a pretty lengthy injury history, there is a fair chance that the two combined miss at least a couple of games, and that should mean playing time for Gentry, provided that he does make the team.
But the first step for the second-year player is to make the team, and the fact that they didn’t add a tight end through the draft was a great help in that endeavor. The dearth of talent at the position saw tight ends drafted higher than they should be, frankly, which also helped keep the Steelers away from the position.
If Gentry can actually develop into a contributor, he can be interesting. At least his 6’8” frame is appealing as a potential target in the passing game. Imagine McDonald, Ebron, Gentry, Chase Claypool, and JuJu Smith-Schuster all on the field on goal-to-go. Just throw the ball up.