Now that the regular season 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 have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season 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 reasoning. 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. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: TE Zach Gentry
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The third-year tight end has been active for every game so far this season after only dressing for six combined during his first two years in the league, playing in about 20 percent of the Steelers’ offensive snaps so far, primarily as a blocker.
For the past few years, the Steelers have tried to get by dressing only two true tight ends on gameday. First it was Vance McDonald and Jesse James, then it was McDonald and Xavier Grimble for like…a couple games before he got injured, replaced by Nick Vannett. Last year, Eric Ebron was brought in to be the top tight end, with McDonald reverting to a blocking role.
One of the reasons that they had only been dressing two, however, was simply because of the fact that they didn’t feel like they had a third tight end that was really worth dressing, unless circumstances dictated it. And Zach Gentry had been the third tight end most of that time, drafted in the fifth round in 2019.
Now, the Steelers knew when they drafted him that he would be a project. After all, he went to Michigan as a quarterback. And it must be said that he hasn’t really ‘done’ all that much, so far, that would be noticed. He has two catches for eight yards so far this season, though that is exactly double his entire career’s worth of production heading into this season.
But the simple fact that he is dressing, regularly, without it being directly attributable to others being out with injuries, shows the growth that he has made over the course of the last two years. He does actually look like somebody who can hang in there as a blocker now, and has done a solid job particularly is pass protection, actually.
The receiving part of his game is what they knew he could do when he was first brought in. And he does make those plays in practice. But now with Pat Freiermuth in, quickly emerging as their top tight end, he’s probably not going to see a ton of targets. Yet the very fact that he’s been able to turn himself into a viable player worthy of dressing—he’s logged 52 offensive snaps so far, quite possibly more than you may have realized—deserves noting.