The Steelers are now in their offseason after failing to reach the playoffs in 2022, coming up just a game short of sneaking in as the seventh seed. They needed help in week 18 and only got some of it, so instead they sat home and watched the playoffs with the rest of us.
On tap is figuring out how to be on the field in January and February instead of being a spectator. They started out 2-6, digging a hole that proved too deep to dig out of even if they managed to go 7-2 in the second half of the year.
Starting from the end of the regular season and leading all the way up to the beginning of the 2023 season, there are plenty of questions that need answered, starting with who will be the offensive coordinator. Which free agents will be kept? Who might be let go due to their salary? How might they tackle free agency with this new front office? We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout this offseason, as we have for many years.
Question: With Zach Gentry re-signed, how does the Steelers’ view of the tight end position in the draft shift?
Chances were always good that the Steelers would come out of free agency with some veteran tight end. Whether it would end up being their own—Zach Gentry—or somebody else from the outside was less certain, but the results are hardly surprising.
While specific terms of the deal have not yet been reported, the fifth-year veteran reportedly signed just a one-year contract to return to Pittsburgh. Such deals are usually indicative of low-level amounts for players who hope to get another bite of the free agency apple in a year’s time.
As I’ve previously discussed with others such as Derek Watt, the team may have given Gentry a Four-Year Veteran Player Benefit contract, which would allow them to compensate him up to $1.5 million in addition to his minimum salary, without that amount being counted against the cap. It’s what the Steelers did for Terrell Edmunds last year.
But now that Gentry is back in the fold, for at least one year, what does that mean for the draft? There are a few things to take into consideration, aside from the obviousness that Gentry will be a free agent again next year. That starts with the fact that what the team can ask Connor Heyward to do as a true tight end will be limited.
Another thing to consider is that the Steelers have been willing to carry four tight ends on the roster in the past, and if they don’t re-sign Watt, they might not have a true fullback, with Heyward possibly dividing time there.
Finally, the Steelers appear to be taking a more physical mindset on offense this offseason; that may include a greater emphasis on running the ball and employing run-heavy packages. Having two reliable in-line blockers might not be a bad thing in such situations.