2022 Stock Watch – TE Zach Gentry – Stock Up

Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth 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 season and into 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 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 spent this season proving himself to be a viable contributor on offense, primarily holding a blocking role, but also showing some receiving ability, catching 23 of 29 targets on the year (including the postseason) without dropping a pass. He caught four passes for 33 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs while finishing the year on a four-game run of 40-plus snaps played.

We’re still early in the offseason and so I’m trying to steer clear of too much broad-view discussion, but it’s hard to avoid that whenever you talk about a player like Zach Gentry, who went from an afterthought to an everyday contributor between his second and third seasons.

Even though Gentry has consistently made the roster as the number three tight end, the Steelers seemingly thought so little of his readiness to contribute in his first two years that they only ever bothered dressing two tight ends. This year, they dressed him routinely as the third tight end, and regularly gave him playing time, which generally ticked upward as the season progressed.

And his role in the passing game evolved as well. He was only targeted 13 times through Week 14, and five of those came in the game Ben Roethlisberger missed due to COVID-19. In the final five games, he was targeted 16 times, including three games of four-plus targets. One of those was in the playoff loss, catching all four targets for 37 yards.

Admittedly, all of those receptions came on the final meaningless drive of the game. However, he will go down in history as the answer to the trivia question, who caught Ben Roethlisberger’s last throw in the NFL? Well, it was Gentry, on an 11-yard reception from the Chiefs’ 14-yard line, time running out at the three.

The broader point is, there has been put on display trust in him to function within the offense as a complete tight end. That should be at least mildly exciting with respect to the 2022 season as he and Pat Freiermuth continue to evolve as a one-two combination at the tight end position.

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