Consider him a little biased, but tight end Zach Gentry hopes and believes he’ll be seeing the field more this year. That’s not to say 2021 wasn’t a big jump in playing time. For him and for this offense, it was. Healthy and rounding into his body, last year was his first season seeing serious and regular playing time. But speaking on Steelers Nation Radio with Arthur Moats Wednesday, Gentry believes his workload could increase this year and he’s preparing himself for it.
“I did more conditioning,” Gentry told Moats of how he’s spent his offseason. “That was one of the things that Coach T and [TEs Coach Alfredo Roberts] wanted me to do. We’re gonna hopefully do a lot of two tight end sets this year. So you need to be in shape, be able to run for days. So I was doing a lot of that.”
Gentry missed most of the 2020 season with a knee injury, logging snaps in just two games. He entered 2021 on the roster bubble but improved his blocking and got strong, becoming a valuable #2 last season after Eric Ebron missed a solid chunk of the season.
Since taking over as offensive coordinator last year, the Steelers have seen their two tight end set numbers rise. According to our charting, In 2020, they used two tight ends just 14.7% of the time. In 2021, that number rose several percent to 19.6%. It could rise even higher in 2022 with a rookie quarterback and even stronger commitment to the run game. Gentry’s rapid improvement is also a factor and the team again has a true blocking tight end in the shades of a Matt Spaeth-type of player, a strong complement to security blanket (and good friend) Pat Freiermuth.
Of course, more snaps for Gentry means more targets for him too, even if he’ll be a minor part of the team’s passing game. Last year, he caught 19 passes, including the final completion of Ben Roethlisberger’s career, though he’s still looking for his first career touchdown. In a Canada-driven offense that should use more rollouts, play action, and two-tight end looks, the odds are good Gentry will find the end zone for the first time since his Michigan days.