Now that the 2020 regular season 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 are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: TE Zach Gentry
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: After eight games on the bench, it is a virtual certainty that second-year tight end Zach Gentry will make his 2020 debut with Vance McDonald on the Reserve/Covid-19 List.
A fifth-round pick out of Michigan in 2019, Zach Gentry was healthy for the entire year, but ultimately dressed for only four games. The four games for which he dressed were ones in which there were injury questions. While he did play in them, the reality is that the Steelers preferred to dress only two tight ends because he was the third tight end.
Even in 2020, with the active roster expanding from 46 to 48, the Steelers have continued to make him an inactive, which doesn’t exactly speak to having a world of confidence in him. It doesn’t do him any favors that he hasn’t worked his way into a special teams role (such as serving as a wing on the field goal unit, something McDonald does), but this is where we are.
The only other healthy tight end is Eric Ebron, who would be fairly described as limited as a blocker and best-served in a role that skews more toward running routes than trying to slow down defensive ends. Gentry was drafted because they felt he had the size to develop into a two-way tight end who could block.
We will get our first look at him of 2020 and how he has developed since last year, considering we didn’t have any eyes in training camp, nor was there a preseason. If he dresses, I assume that he will see some playing time unless they just run out of the 01 personnel all game, but there are other options.
There are packages the Steelers have in place in which an extra lineman is the only tight end on the field, sometimes along with a fullback. Derek Watt is back for this game, and like Roosevelt Nix before him, he does play on the line sometimes, usually for ‘move’ assignments. So if they’re not comfortable playing Gentry, there are some options they can pursue. But I think most of us would like to get a look at him.