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Steelers Rookie Zach Gentry Trying to Work His Way into Pro Role

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PITTSBURGH — The blocking sleds at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Pittsburgh’s South Side are bright red, a color thought for years to bring out anger in animals.

It’s the legend behind why the muleta of a Spanish bullfighter wears red, thought the science behind that theory is lacking.

So too, may be the idea that the angriest, nastiest blocker does the most damage to the sleds that are build and bought solely for their ability to take physical punishment.

Simply put, there is a right way and a wrong way to attack the dummies, and, if lacking the proper technique, all the anger and strength in the world isn’t going to do a bit of good.

That was one of the lessons that longtime Steelers tight ends coach James Daniel was doling out during the team’s rookie minicamp last week, and one of the receipts of that advice was fifth-round draft pick Zach Gentry.

Gentry, a 6-foot-8, 265-pound tight end out of Michigan, was not used prolifically in Michigan’s passing offense. He had a 16.1-yards-per-catch average in his redshirt junior season in 2018, but was targeted just 32 times and caught two touchdown passes.

The Albuquerque, New Mexico native joined the Wolverines to play quarterback, and was covered to a tight end by Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

That means that he’s still developing the tools and talents required to play the position, but the Steelers believe his frame, natural athleticism and football IQ will lead to a more-productive future.

“He’s a good football player,” Daniel said right after the draft. “Long frame. He’s a guy that we’re excited about getting in here and getting to work with.”

Working alongside first-year players Kevin Rader (Pine-Richland, Youngstown State) and Christian Scotland-Williamson, the 22-year-old was show the ropes of how, where and how hard to make contact with that red pad to drive the blocking sled backwards.

Gentry was asked to block in Michigan’s system, but it’ll be a different animal when asked to take on defensive ends in the NFL on a weekly basis.

The physical adjustment to being able to hold his own — and even drive back — stronger players, is going to be one of the toughest parts of the process for Gentry to master.

“It’s just going to be the size of everybody, I think,” Gentry said. “Everybody out there is a big, physical, fast guy. I’ve just got a little bit of a taste for it.

While that part of a game will be an adjustment, there’s plenty that Gentry has to offer. His big frame should make him an attractive red-zone target and his experience as a quarterback should help him absorb the offense quickly.

“That background has helped me with coverages and defense fronts, and also, it’s helped me draw a lot of parallels between defense,” Gentry said. “I’ve always been acclimated to learning the playbook quickly.”

ROSTER FIGHT

Gentry, Rader and Scotland-Williamson will be battling for what will likely be one spot at tight end behind starter Vance McDonald and backup Xavier Grimble.

Rader (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) is a stockier player and probably more of a blocking threat, while Scotland-Williamson is a 6-foot-9 former rugby player.

BIG PERSONALITIES

Last week, Gentry got his first taste of what it’s like to play for Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. But after four year of playing for Harbaugh, he’s pretty used to playing for a larger-than-life head coach.

“They both live and love the game of football,” Gentry said. “They live for it. They love it. They know every little piece of it. They’re both competitors.”

Steelers

Steelers QB Josh Dobbs Working with NASA for 2nd Straight Year

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Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Josh Dobbs is joining the NASA Kennedy Space Flight Center for the second straight offseason.

The collaboration is a part of the NFLPA’s virtual Externship program, which provides players with professional development experiences to prepare them for their careers after football.

Dobbs is part of an exclusive group of just 52 players participating in the program. His placement with NASA will last through the end of March.

“We believe that this year’s virtual Externship experience will provide our player members with a unique opportunity to broaden their knowledge, skillset and network in new, innovative ways that will serve them well during life after football,” NFLPA Player Manager Connor Ford said.

Dobbs’ mental acumen is well-documented, as the quarterback left the University of Tennessee with a degree in aerospace engineering in 2017.

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Steelers RB Trey Edmunds Shares Love of Reading with Local Students

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Pittsburgh Steelers running back Trey Edmunds has been a lifelong lover of reading, a passion he shared with local students on Tuesday’s celebration of Read Across America Day.

Edmunds joined students at Pittsburgh Faison for a virtual assembly and read New York Times best seller, What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada.

“I am blessed and humbled to be amongst you guys today and to represent another part of the community and be able to read to you,” Edmunds told Steelers.com. “I am so happy to be here today. What I do want to say is I was in some of the same positions as you guys. I grew up listening to people come back and read to me. Some of those same people I have been in contact with many years later. Some of those same things they have read to me, I have had the privilege of reading to some of the people I mentor, some of the young people in my life, whether it’s cousins, nephews. I am extremely happy today.”

Edmunds also surprised the student with a copy of his own book My Brother’s Keeper – What This Means to Me…, written alongside with his brothers Terrell and Tremaine. Terrell is a safety for Pittsburgh, while Tremaine is a standout linebacker for the Buffalo Bills.

Edmunds’ love of reading came from his mother Felicia, who as an educator, always championed the important of the skill.

“My mother is an elementary school teacher, so she had me doing all of that stuff when I was in high school, college, as a matter of fact I have to go to her school to read for the month of March,” he told Steelers.com. “It keeps me on my toes, attentive. I am a big reader myself, so when I get the opportunity to read to kids, I like that type of interaction.”

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Should Steelers Sign Zach Banner to be Starter in 2021?

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Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault.

He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. With Banner expected to be ready for a return next season, should the Steelers sign the 27-year-old with the anticipation that he could be a key piece to bolster the offensive line that was missing during the 2020 season?

Do you believe in Zach Banner? Comment below with why or why not.

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