Steelers News

Zach Gentry ‘Really Enjoying’ Blocking, Physical Aspect Of Football Again After Years Playing QB

The Pittsburgh Steelers are being hit with some major, major departures this offseason. Longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is retiring after 18 seasons with the team. General manager Kevin Colbert has already been confirmed as stepping down from that role, though it’s possible he remains onboard in a background capacity.

Yet another blow should be the inevitable departure of veteran tight end Eric Ebron, who originally signed with the team as an unrestricted free agent in 2020 on a two-year deal. His contract will soon expire, and the team is unlikely to re-sign him.

Of course, he didn’t much factor into the team’s 2021 season, with the drafting of Pat Freiermuth, who didn’t take long to establish himself as the number one tight end, tying the franchise record for the most touchdowns by a rookie tight end in team history with seven.

But there was also the emergence of Zach Gentry, the 2019 fifth-round pick out of Michigan, that helped keep Ebron often in the background. Having spent most of his first two seasons as a healthy scratch, he played every game this past season and was their primary blocker.

As a 6’8”, 265-pound man, that might not sound terribly surprising, but he spent a good chunk of his football life playing the quarterback position. He recently told Missi Matthews for the team’s website that the physicality of the position was something he had to relearn and embrace—which he now has.

I do like it a lot”, he said of blocking. “I used to be real physical when I was younger. I played a little defense. But that was something I got away from for so long playing quarterback. Especially the last couple of years, I’m finding myself really enjoying that aspect of it again. I’m having fun with it, and I do enjoy it and enjoy the position that I’m in right now”.

Gentry was recruited to play at Michigan as a quarterback, but he made a position switch during his junior season in 2017. Over his final two collegiate seasons, he caught 49 passes for 817 yards and four touchdowns.

Coming out of college, he was a receiving-first prospect. Then-coach James Daniel said at the time that “He’s got some adjusting to do to become a good blocker”, but that he thinks “the kid is excited about it and willing”.

It took a couple of seasons before the Steelers were comfortable sticking him out there in that role—most weeks, they went with only two active tight ends, though they also used a tackle-eligible as an extra blocker more than most teams.

But now he has their trust, and he enters the 2022 season making a promising 1-2 combination with Freiermuth. While his primary role this past year was as a blocker, he did catch 23 passes, including the playoffs, for 200 yards, about half of which came in the final four weeks.

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