Zach Gentry is deserving of praise amidst Steelers disappointing year

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Zach Gentry (81) Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Zach Gentry (81) Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Steelers season enters the final few weeks, I wanted to take a minute to highlight an unsung hero for the offense.

The Steelers season hasn’t gone as most expected it to. While there are plenty of reasons to be upset with this season, I wanted to take a minute to highlight an unsung hero for this team. While not a huge statistical impact on the team, Zach Gentry provides a consistent element for this team that they have lacked at tight end for so long.

Gentry was a surprise pick when the Steelers took him in the fifth round out of Michigan. The former quarterback had made some strides when he switched to tight end, but he was far from a finished product. He was a decent threat down the seam but lacked the consistency as a receiver and blocker to be seen as a great prospect.

Most expected him to go undrafted, but the Steelers saw enough to take him in the fifth round of the draft. Initially, the scouting community seemed to be correct. Gentry was a very lackluster option for this team. Even during camp where his size should make him a mismatch, he was a very mediocre player.

Despite surviving two training camps, Gentry seemed to be on the outs last year heading into camp. Pat Freiermuth was the tight end of the future while Eric Ebron was a holdover from the season before. Few expected Gentry to stick around past camp. Even less expected him to make any actual impact.

Zach Gentry surprised for the Steelers

Gentry looked like a different person in his third camp. He had filled out his large frame and was showcasing a lot more as a blocker. His ability to be a receiver was still mediocre, but he was suddenly this teams best blocking tight end by a wide margin. Not only did he stick around with the team, but he became an active player for the offense.

Ebron faded down the stretch while Freiermuth ascended into a starting role. Gentry began stealing some snaps as well, and he provided the team with a versatile offensive weapon. No, he wasn’t having huge receiving games, but he was blocking well for the team when called upon.

Gentry’s ascension has been a welcome gift

In a year when not a lot has gone right for the Steelers offense, seeing Gentry rise to the occasion and continue his solid play has been a big win for the team. In most regards, this offense is a weakness for this team, but tight end is one of the lone bright spots.

Freiermuth is the primary star, but Gentry offers some flexibility. He can start in place of Freiermuth if needed and be a safe, albeit, low ceiling option. More importantly, when both are healthy, the team can run two tight end sets more frequently. Gentry has enough value as both a blocker and receiver to function in that secondary role.

This does seem like a huge deal, but for so long a two tight end set was a tell that the team was running the ball. Now, the team can run or pass and be effective in either set. This is especially important when you consider the Steelers only have two good receivers right now. Multi-tight end sets give this team more flexibility.

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To be clear, Gentry is far from an elite player, but he has developed into a good enough option and deserves praise for that. He is as steady as they come, and his ability gives the offense some flexibility. With the season being a tough one on fans, I want to highlight a player worthy of some praise for his ascension into his current role.