Rookie TE Zach Gentry excited for expanded role in Steelers offense
While the Pittsburgh Steelers traded a future fifth-round pick to acquire a veteran tight end, their current fifth-rounder is hoping to assume a bigger role at the position Monday night.
Zach Gentry, the former Michigan quarterback-turned-tight end, will have the second-most experience with the Steelers when they face the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field in a prime-time matchup of winless teams.
If starter Vance McDonald is unable to play because of a shoulder injury, Gentry will be the elder statesman among Steelers tight ends. On Wednesday, Xavier Grimble was placed on injured reserve, and Nick Vannett was acquired from the Seattle Seahawks.
Gentry has just 10 snaps of NFL experience, all in the second half last Sunday when McDonald and Grimble were injured in the Steelers’ 24-20 loss at San Francisco.
“I’m fired up,” Gentry said Thursday. “I was happy I got to touch the field last week. I’m just singularly focused on winning the game and doing what I can to help the team.”
Gentry was viewed as a long-term project when the Steelers selected him in in April. He enrolled at Michigan as a quarterback but switched to tight end after his freshman year and started his final two seasons in the Big Ten.
At 6-foot-8, 265 pounds, Gentry was an inviting target for quarterbacks, which is why the Steelers drafted him. The Steelers kept him on the 53-man roster as the third tight end but made Gentry inactive for the first two games.
Now, he has been thrust into a more prominent role.
“I feel very comfortable,” Gentry said. “I’ve come a long way. I’ve been in a couple different spots right now, and I’ve been able to rotate and help out there. I feel really good.”
Gentry said the biggest obstacle he overcame was learning the terminology of the playbook, and he expects Vannett to be confused initially by the verbiage.
“Football is football. A lot of the stuff is similar,” he said. “It’s just what everybody calls it. It’s getting used to that and forgetting the past stuff and some of the stuff you used to call it and accepting the new terminology.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .