The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 offseason practices concluded last week. Next up for the team is their annual training camp, which should get underway in the latter part of July. Ahead of training camp, we will preview the team’s 90-man roster three players at a time for you as part of a 30-post series. This Steelers 90-man roster preview that includes outlooks for each player goes alphabetically by last name to make it easy to follow along with.
The next three players we will preview today are Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, and Mark Gilbert.
TE Pat Freiermuth — The Steelers used their second-round draft pick this year on Freiermuth, who played his college football at Penn State. In his three seasons at Penn State, Freiermuth registered 1,185 receiving yards, ranking 26th overall in Penn State history and third among tight ends at the school. His 92 career receptions tied him for 20th all-time at Penn State. In total, the Steelers’ new tight end registered 19 receptions for 199 yards and 13 touchdowns in the red zone (Opp 20 To 1-Yd. Line) while at Penn State. He also showed to be a better-than-average blocker in his final two college seasons.
Outlook: The Steelers obviously have been plans for Freiermuth as evidenced by them selecting him the second round this year. As a rookie, Freiermuth should be the Steelers second tight end on the depth chart right out of the chute with him also seeing some occasional snaps on special teams. His run blocking ability should be utilized early and often in 2021 as part of two tight end personnel groupings. He can play attached and detached from the line of scrimmage as well and thus figures to be used some in the passing game as a rookie and especially inside the red zone. In total, Freiermuth should play at least 400 offensive snaps in 2021 and possibly as many as 500. His receiving stats as a rookie might be marginal, however, as the team still has veteran tight end Eric Ebron as well.
TE Zach Gentry — Gentry had another tough season in 2020 as the Steelers former fifth-round draft pick out of Michigan suffered a knee injury in Week 11 that forced him to the team’s Reserve/Injured list. Gentry was inactive for the Steelers first eight games of the 2020 season and then appeared in the teams next two games and logged a total of 20 offensive snaps with 11 more coming on special teams. He failed to log any stats in the two contests that he dressed for and played in. As a rookie in 2019, Gentry, a quarterback-turned-tight end in college, also failed to see the field much. He played just 49 total offensive snaps in 2019 and registered just one catch for four yards.
Outlook: Currently, Gentry appears to be the Steelers third tight end on the team’s depth chart with the start of training camp nearing. To date, his blocking hasn’t been great in the few games he’s seen action in so that phase of his game needs to show drastic improvement this summer. Gentry also isn’t known as being special teams demon and that’s another strike against him. The Steelers could look to upgrade their tight end depth chart as the offseason plays out and that’s something that should worry Gentry. The Steelers also have former undrafted free agent tight end Kevin Rader on their 90-man roster right now and he could certainly push Gentry for the third tight end spot. Should Gentry fail to make the Steelers 53-man roster this, which is totally possible, there’s a chance he could land on the team’s practice squad.
CB Mark Gilbert — Gilbert, the nephew of former Pitt and NFL defensive tackle Sean Gilbert and cousin of former Pitt cornerback and four-time All-Pro Darrelle Revis, was signed by the Steelers a few months ago as an undrafted free agent out of Duke. For his college career at Duke, Gilbert registered just 65 total tackles, 5.0 of which were for loss, seven interceptions and 17 passes defensed. He also played in just 23 games in college over a span of four seasons due to hip and foot injuries. He chose to opt out of most of the 2020 season to prepare for the NFL. He can play both outside and in the slot. At his pro day, Gilbert measured in at 6001, 186-pounds and he reportedly ran his 40-yard-dash in 4.48-seconds. He did 13 reps on the bench at his pro day and registered a vertical jump of 36-inches and a broad jump of 10’10”. His short shuttle time was 4.38-seconds, and he finished his 3-cone drill in 7.10-seconds, per the reports.
Outlook: Gilbert will enter Steelers training camp this summer buried on the team’s cornerback depth chart. In short, he’ll more than likely be competing to make the practice squad this year as it’s very unlikely that he survives the final rounds of roster cuts after the preseason tilt is completed. Gilbert’s lack of college experience will be a hindrance to him. He is, however, a very athletic cornerback with good measurables so maybe he will show enough this summer to warrant the team spending time developing him further.
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