With the Steelers’ 2023 offseason underway following a disappointing season that came up just short of reaching the playoffs, it’s time to begin reloading, through the free agency process, through the draft, and perhaps even through trade.
This is now a young team on the offensive side of the ball, though one getting older on defense. Both sides could stand to be supplemented robustly, including in the trenches—either one. Changes have been made to the coaching staff, even if not all of the desired ones, as the roster continues to renew with the weeks ticking by.
These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
Topic Statement: Zach Gentry will not make the team.
Explanation: The Steelers only re-signed Gentry to a one-year contract with a $152,500 signing bonus, the only guarantee in his deal. They used a third-round pick to draft Darnell Washington, while also giving a $10,000 signing bonus to undrafted fullback Monte Pottebaum.
On a stacked roster that is going to demand extra depth at areas like the defensive line and the defensive backfield, the Steelers are not going to have the luxury of carrying extra tight ends. Especially if Monte Pottebaum ends up sticking as a fullback and special teamer, the odds of them carrying four, including Connor Heyward, into the 2023 season are low.
And Gentry would clearly be the odd man out. Rookie Darnell Washington is basically an upgraded version of him. They drafted Gentry because of his size and his pass-catching upside, but Washington was the best blocking tight end on this roster the second he was drafted.
The bottom line is that he’s made Gentry redundant, and the Steelers’ veteran-minimum contract they handed out to him this offseason as an unrestricted free agent shows that they knew he might be made obsolete. And there’s still the possibility that they could re-sign fullback Derek Watt if Pottebaum doesn’t make the team.
The Steelers carrying eight total players among halfbacks, fullbacks, and tight ends happens more than you might realize. They’ve carried four halfbacks a number of times, and it’s far from unheard of for them to carry four tight ends.
This year it’s looking like we should only have three halfbacks, and the closest thing we might have to a fullback is Connor Heyward, as the coaches have talked about him potentially playing in that role more this season. That’s what his body dictates anyway.
That leaves room for both Gentry and Pottebaum (or Watt), frankly. And while some positions might be heavier this year, there’s also the possibility of others being lighter, like wide receiver and linebacker. For all we know, the Steelers may even carry only two quarterbacks, if that’s the prerogative of this new front office, even if it goes against what Mike Tomlin has traditionally done. But right now a rookie college free agent would be the third quarterback.