There is no wise old veteran like Heath Miller in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ tight end room. But Zach Gentry is entering his fourth NFL season, and that’s good enough to have the rest of the room look up to you. At least, that’s according to Pat Freiermuth, who dubbed Gentry the leader in the clubhouse.
“Obviously Zach’s been here for a long time,” he said via the team website Tuesday afternoon. “So he knows some things and kind of been around here. So we’re looking towards him, being here before.”
Though dorm rooms aren’t ideal for a 6’7″ tight end, Gentry’s in a far more comfortable place compared to a year ago. He enters squarely on the roster as the team’s #2 tight end behind Freiermuth. With better blocking, health, and more confidence, Gentry played well last summer to earn his spot on the roster and made an underrated impact throughout the season, turning into the team’s blocking tight end that’s been missing from this offense. He’s a strong bet to make the roster this summer. He’s had perhaps the biggest turnaround of any Steeler compared to a season ago.
While he’s below Freiermuth on the depth chart, Gentry has the leg up in experience, including in Latrobe. Gentry is one of two Steelers’ tight ends, Kevin Rader the other, who has been to St. Vincent College before. Gentry will be the man Freiermuth, Jace Sternberger, and Connor Heyward look toward in order to show them Latrobe training camp ropes. Not even positional coach Alfredo Roberts or offensive coordinator Matt Canada have been to SVC before.
Gentry and Freiermuth are the only two tight ends on the roster who are locks or near-locks to make the team. Heyward will fight for that third spot behind them as a tight end/H-Back who needs to cut his teeth on special teams. Rader is a solid blocker and coverage player but has struggled to stick on the 53-man roster and has the feel of a fringe practice squad-lifer. Sternberger has pedigree as a former third-round pick of the Green Bay Packers, but comes to the Steelers with just 12 NFL catches.
The #3 spot is unsettled but the top two spots aren’t. Freiermuth the #1, Gentry the #2. If those two remain healthy in those roles, Pittsburgh will have a strong tight end room.