PITTSBURGH — With uncertainty at the tight end position this week, the Steelers are putting their faith in Zach Gentry.
The Michigan product and 2019 fifth-round draft pick started the 2021 season third on the Steelers’ pecking order at tight end, but a long-term knee injury to veteran Eric Ebron and a suspected concussion to rookie Pat Freiermuth has moved Gentry up to the top of the team’s depth chart.
The Steelers also have Kevin Rader and Jace Sternberger available to them, but its the faith in Gentry that has Mike Tomlin saying the team’s solution to a potential Freiermuth absence is inside the building. On Wednesday, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger echoed that faith.
“Zach’s been here with me for a little bit and is a guy that we trust and knows the offense,” Roethlisberger said. “He might not be the most explosive guy but he’s a guy you can trust that’s going to make the plays. Last week he made a really big play for us.”
That play was a 17-yard tight end screen where Gentry trucked Titans safety Amani Hooker.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) December 21, 2021
But those opportunities have been few and far between since he joined the Steelers. Gentry got started out in college football as a quarterback with the Wolverines before moving to tight end and he was viewed as a project with a 6-foot-8 frame and big wingspan.
He is not, as Roethlisberger alluded to, the most athletic player to play his position. But through three seasons in the NFL, he’s put the muscle on his frame to be able to consistently make plays like the one above.
Gentry is averaging 9.7 yards per catch this season, tops among the team’s tight ends, and his 71.4% catch percentage only slightly trails Freiermuth. He has every look of a player that has earned the greater role that opportunity is about to hand him.