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.