The Pittsburgh Steelers are now one of just 30 teams with nothing to do until September, at least as it concerns having meaningful football games to play. Unlike 14 others, they’ve been sitting at home since the end of the regular season, but 12 have been eliminated from the postseason, now watching the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
But at least they have time to start thinking about their offseason plans. Such as which of their own free agents they’re going to need to re-sign. The Steelers have an interesting list of names this year, including some important starters. Perhaps lying somewhere in the middle is their second tight end, Zach Gentry.
A 2019 fifth-round pick, his rookie contract runs out at the start of the new league year, but he’s become a key cog over the past two seasons as their primary blocking tight end, and co-host on Grillin’ and Chillin’ with Pat Freiermuth, who has opinions about what the Steelers should do.
“He’s my dawg. We need to re-sign him”, he said on former Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s podcast, the latest episode of which went online yesterday. He remarked that Gentry was supposed to join the show with Freiermuth but “he bailed”—Freiermuth pointed out that he’s house-shopping. “I still love Zach”, Big Ben insisted.
The two of them played three years together, though Gentry was largely inactive during his first two seasons. The former Wolverine became their primary blocking tight end in 2021, however, Roethlisberger’s final season, and he wasn’t shy about throwing him the ball.
As a matter of fact, and as a matter of trivia, Gentry actually caught the final pass of Roethlisberger’s career, an 11-yard reception down to the Kansas City Chiefs’ three-yard line as time expired with the Steelers trailing 42-21.
Not the most distinguished way to end things, but Gentry’s still got potentially plenty of career left. Shaping up to be perhaps the new Matt Spaeth, he came into the league as more of a receiving tight end but with the frame to become a blocker, and that’s what he’s done.
Gentry has been vital for the offense, logging 1,050 offensive snaps over the past two seasons, including nearly 600 in 2022, half of the team’s total offensive count for the year. Freiermuth is still working on rounding out his game as a blocker, so his co-host has filled a crucial niche while being able to step up in the passing game when necessary as well.
He does have 39 receptions in his career for 303 yards, though he’s still looking for his first touchdown. He saw fewer targets (by two) in the passing game in 2022 than he did the year prior, but we could see the total number of throws ramp up for Pittsburgh next season as quarterback Kenny Pickett moves into year two.
Will he be working with Gentry? If not, then they’ll have a genuine hole that needs to be filled. They’ve tried to get by in the past with a tackle-eligible as their blocking tight end, but they don’t even have a Zach Banner-worthy player for that role at the moment.