With our series breaking down each position on the roster completed, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2020 season.
This is not a conventional offseason, of course, for obvious reasons, which is likely to play a role in many of these battles, some in ways that we might not foresee. Generally speaking, it should favor players who have greater experience, but there’s a reason these questions are left unanswered until we get on the field.
Position: Tight End
Up for Grabs: Depth
In the Mix: Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader, Dax Raymond
For almost everybody, this is probably going to be viewed as open and shut. Zach Gentry is the Steelers’ own second-year tight end, a fifth-round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft whom they knowingly drafted as a raw prospect who not long ago was actually a giant quarterback.
I say giant quarterback because, well, he’s 6’8”. That’s big even for a tight end. On the Steelers’ roster, only Alejandro Villanueva and rookie defensive end Calvin Taylor, both at 6’9”, are taller than he is, and Zach Banner is the same height.
Gentry not only was a position convert but also an underclassman. The Steelers knew 2019 was going to be a redshirt year. But that doesn’t mean that he is guaranteed to have a roster spot. He is not as composed as Jesse James was at the same point in his career, for example.
Both Kevin Rader and new face Dax Raymond have a broader history of playing the tight end position, and both also have a season under their belts, albeit on practice squads. Gentry does have an edge in that he has played in a few regular season games. Rader was on the Steelers’ practice squad last year, so he is familiar with the system.
Raymond, on the other hand, was only acquired quite recently, signed in order to replace Christian Scotland-Williamson on the roster, an international player who spent the past two years on the practice squad with the team. He, too, was at least 6’8”, maybe even taller, if memory serves.
Raymond is 6’5” and 255 pounds, a first-year man out of Utah State who can put some meat on his bones. He spent his rookie season on the Bears’ practice squad, but they let him go following the 2020 draft after they drafted a tight end.