Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, 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 offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
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: Down
Reasoning: In another installment of stating the obvious, the Steelers’ drafting of Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth in the second round last night puts Zach Gentry’s roster status in a tenuous position moving forward.
For the first time since 2007, the Steelers used a draft pick earlier than the fifth round on the tight end position when they selected Pat Freiermuth out of Penn State in Round 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft. The move comes following an offseason in which one of their top players at the position, Vance McDonald, opted to retire.
Freiermuth joins Eric Ebron as obvious roster locks and gives them a strong 1-2 duo that makes everybody else on the depth chart, needless to say, rather expendable. That fact is driven home even further when reminded that they have rarely dressed more than two tight ends over the past two years.
That leaves 2019 fifth round draft pick Zach Gentry in a precarious spot. The former quarterback who converted to the tight end position, one might say, has been redshirting for the past couple of years, the Steelers giving him the opportunity to grow in the hopes of him living up to this promise and potential.
But now that he’s heading into year three, he’s got to sink or swim on his own. Investing so steadfastly in the number two at the position leaves him fighting for one last potential roster spot with Kevin Rader, Dax Raymond, and Charles Jones.
His prior status as a draft pick won’t hold much cache any longer. He won’t be on scholarship anymore, so to speak. He’s either got to show that he is the third-best tight end the Steelers have, or say goodbye to his roster spot.
Of course, it was expected that the team would eventually invest in the tight end position, though it wasn’t clear how or when. At some point, Pittsburgh was going to challenge him. One could look at it another way and suggest that this makes it exceedingly unlikely they double back to add a veteran tight end like Jesse James. In which case the argument exists that this is a better possible scenario for him.