The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.
The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.
How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will Zach Gentry still be a healthy scratch during his second season?
It’s pretty rare that a team who has three or more tight ends only dresses two of them, but that is what the Steelers did for most of last season, with Zach Gentry, a raw rookie fifth-round pick out of Michigan, serving in that number three role. He only dressed when there were injuries, though he did play a bit in the games for which he suited up.
There are arguments for and against the belief that he will dress. For one thing, the Steelers have more talent to dress this year, arguably, with Chase Claypool being a key addition, and with the good chance that they will carry at least four running backs, with all of the backups being special teams contributors. Gentry is unlikely to contribute in that phase.
They have a strong starting pair of tight ends in Vance McDonald and Eric Ebron, and made more use of the tackle-eligible than anyone last year. Even if one of Zach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor start, the other can do that. Combine that with a shortened offseason and it’s hard to say if he will earn a roster spot.
But he will make some progress without question. He’s not a rookie. He has a full season under his belt. And don’t forget: there’s an extra roster spot one gamedays now. Teams almost always dress three tight ends. Now with an extra roster spot, that makes it much less likely they will go with two dressed.