With all that has transpired at the tight end position over the past two years, it seems as though 2019 fifth-round pick Zach Gentry is becoming the forgotten man for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But not so for veteran Eric Ebron as he heads into his second season with the team.
While second-round pick Pat Freiermuth is the shiny new toy in the room filling in the shoes of the retired Vance McDonald, Ebron hasn’t lost sight of the only tight end who has been here longer—and it’s not that difficult when he’s 6’8”.
“I expect Zach to grow, man”, he said of Gentry, speaking to reporters today. “I was upset that he got hurt last year, because when you get that opportunity to step out on the field and help your team win, you don’t really want to let them down. And I felt like with the injuries, it’s kind of more taken away from you”.
Gentry has only dressed for six games through his first two seasons in the league. Outside of the injury that he suffered late last year, he has only dressed as an injury replacement, the Steelers preferring to dress only two tight ends as the norm. He has one career reception for four yards across 69 snaps.
“He’s young in the tight end position, mentally. He transferred from quarterback, and stuff like that. It’s fun to watch new people like that”, Ebron said, likening him to a former teammate in Indianapolis. “This day and age, it is getting athletic, it’s getting faster, and guys that are big like Zach who play a dominant role in certain phases of the game, he’s going to continue to grow and get better doing it”.
It is true that Gentry has only been immersed in the tight end position for four or five years at this point. And he also had his growth stunted last year without a proper offseason due to the pandemic. But no doubt the pressure will be on him this season as he enters year three to show real tangible growth. And that’s what Ebron expects to see.
“I feel like he’s gonna vastly improve this year”, he said. “Still needs to get a little bit more flexibility, but who the hell am I to tell him he needs to get more flexible? He’s 6’8”. How many people are that flexible at 6’8”? But he can be dominant, and I look forward to continuing working with him on that”.
From an outside perspective, it certainly would be nice if the Steelers could still develop a contributor out of their 2019 fifth-round draft pick. Most want to move on from him already, even myself included, as I’ve advocated for the re-signing of Jesse James.
It appears that he will at least get a chance to show that he can be the number three tight end in training camp and in the preseason. But if he doesn’t, Pittsburgh can bring in somebody like Kevin Rader or a free agent from the outside to take his place.