Zach Gentry had one false start this year.
He didn’t have two.
Taking pride in not adding to self-inflicted wounds that plagued the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense this year, Gentry shared a story on a recent episode of the Steel Here podcast, hosted by Jersey Jerry and Kevin Adams, to talk about the put-up or shut-up bet he made with TEs Coach Alfredo Roberts.
“At some point during camp, I false started,” Gentry told the show. “I’ve never really been a penalized dude. College or pro. I told Coach Fredo, he was getting on my ass for false starting. I said, ‘if i false start at any point this season, you can take $1000 out of my pocket guaranteed.'”
True to his word, Gentry didn’t false start in a game all season and kept his $1000. To be clear, it doesn’t sound like he got $1000 from Roberts, no one gets paid to do the basics of his job, but the knowledge he was going to lose four figures kept him in-check all year long.
As Gentry said, he hasn’t been a penalty machine. Though he hasn’t been an everydown player, across more than 1100 offensive snaps in his NFL career, he’s only been flagged once. A moment he acknowledged on the podcast, holding Buffalo Bills’ Von Miller earlier this year. A “good” penalty to take, going up against a Hall of Fame pass rusher to avoid getting rookie Kenny Pickett hit in his first career start.
Pittsburgh’s offense was highly penalized throughout the year, especially the first half of the season. The left side of the line were its biggest offenders, LG Kevin Dotson with ten accepted penalties against and LT Dan Moore Jr. right behind him with nine. Many were unforced errors, eight combined false starts, four apiece. Diontae Johnson and George Pickens had the third and fourth-most, five each, with three combined false starts.
Things improved over the second half of the season. Before the bye, the Steelers’ offense averaged 3.5 penalties per game. After the bye, that number dropped to 2.9 per game. It’s one reason why the offense found stability and traction, possessing the ball, converting on third down, and not needlessly stalling out drives with killer penalties.
It remains to be seen if Gentry will be part of the effort to continue that positive pattern in 2023. A pending free agent, he told the podcast there haven’t been many talks with his agent and the Steelers yet. Those talks tend to heat up around the NFL Combine when front offices and agents converge. Gentry said he would love to return to the Steelers but money ultimately talks. Coming off a rookie contract, he’s ready to cash in. We’ll see who pays him.
You can catch the whole interview below.