PITTSBURGH — Way back in rookie minincamp, one of the first experiences for Steelers tight end Zach Gentry at practice was taking reps at an in-line blocking drill where the player ducks under a bar and then drives a sled backward.
Or at least, is supposed to drive the sled backward. Gentry’s first attempt back in May was a pretty epic fail.
Fast forward to Thursday’s practice, when new tight ends Nick Vannett, acquired from the Seattle Seahawks, and Alize Mack, who was signed to the practice squad, both took their first crack at the drill under the watchful eyes of head coach Mike Tomlin and tight ends coach James Daniel.
At this point, Gentry looks like the old pro. Check it out:
Of course, that’s just one drill, but it shows the progress that Gentry has made in his time with the Steelers.
With Xavier Grimble placed on injured reserve on Wednesday, and Vance McDonald watching practice in a t-shirt (below), Gentry now stands at the top of the Steelers’ depth chart at tight end while the Steelers figure out what they have in Vannett.
BACK IN ROTATION
Second-team running back Jaylen Samuels didn’t have a single touch in the Steelers’ loss to San Francisco last week, and that came in a game where they were playing without their only fullback and both of their top tight ends.
In fact, Samuels was only on the field for 14 total offensive snaps, and ceded carries to third-string rookie Benny Snell after being a far larger part of the game plan earlier in the season.
On Thursday, Benny, Samuels and starter James Conner were working on some drills with multiple running backs in the backfield at the same time (below), something they did a lot during training camp and a way to offset their lack of depth at tight end and fullback.
Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/18/20
James Conner tested out his injured ankle and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw passes to JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Chase Claypool during practice on Friday, September 18, 2020.
This practice was in preparation for the Steelers week 2 game on Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
Cam Heyward Named NFLPA Community MVP for Week 1
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward has been named NFLPA Community MVP for Week 1.
Heyward was honored for installing his first Little Free Library, a book-sharing box placed in underserved communities around the Pittsburgh area.
Congrats to @camheyward on being named Week 1 #CommunityMVP for installing his first Little Free Library. The book-sharing boxes provide 24-7 access to literacy for underserved Pittsburgh communities while honoring the legacy in education of his late grandfather. pic.twitter.com/uKwbnz28A1— NFLPA (@NFLPA) September 18, 2020
Little Free Library is a non-profit organization that “inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.”
The installation of the book-sharing boxes marks the launch of the Rufus and Judy Jordan Literacy Project, a new initiative of the Cameron Heyward Foundation that will work to promote children’s literacy and honor his late grandparents, both of whom were lifelong educators in Pittsburgh.
Drafted in first round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Ohio State, Heyward has spend his entire career in Pittsburgh. He is a three-time Pro Bowler, and has twice received First-Team All-Pro honors.
Heyward and the Steelers agreed to a four-year, $71.4 million contract extension on Sept. 6 that will allow him to retire in Pittsburgh and make him the highest-paid defense player over the age of 30 in NFL history.
Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/17/20
The Steelers finally experienced a practice with almost everyone on the roster able to take the field. Only two players did not take part in practice before their week 2 game against Denver.
Alex Highsmith and Minkah Fitzpatrick stood out from the rest on Thursday, September 17, 2020.