It’s noteworthy Zach Gentry was the Steelers most newsworthy cut
How often does a team cut the star of its schedule-reveal video?
I don’t know, but how often is a player the caliber of Zach Gentry a team’s most noteworthy cut?
That was the case on Tuesday, when the man, himself, Gentry, became the most surprising release, as the Steelers whittled their roster down to the final 53 ahead of the 2023 regular season.
Obviously, “final” is a loaded word when discussing the Steelers’ current 53-man roster. After all, they still have two punters as of this writing and could conceivably bring Gentry back before I am finished penning this piece. Still, whether Gentry is re-signed or not is not the point; the point is that he was the most notable cut by Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
I don’t know how you feel, but I think that says something about where the Steelers are as they prepare for a Week 1 date with the 49ers on September 10 at Acrisure Stadium.
The Steelers have been rebuilding their roster for about five years in an attempt to try and get it back to the healthy look it had all throughout the mid-2010s. Not only were stars hard to find during the recent lean years, but depth was clearly an issue.
Folks worried about the consequences of injuries at various positions.
From outside linebacker to cornerback to offensive line to safety, the Steelers simply couldn’t afford the loss of starting talent just about anywhere on the roster.
But times have clearly changed. The Steelers, while not anointed with the “contender” oil just yet, are trending in the right direction after an undefeated and quite dominant preseason. Not only are there current and budding stars at various positions, but the Steelers also appear to be awash with depth. Are you worried about yet another injury to T.J. Watt? Maybe, but the reserve outside linebackers–veteran Markus Golden and rookie Nick Herbig–seem like decent “Break Open Glass” type replacements. This isn’t to say they would step right in and pick up where a former and perhaps future Defensive Player of the Year left off (they better not be able to do that–not at his price), but they could probably hold down the fort for a week or two.
That’s really all you can ask of depth.
As for starters, you want as many of them to be stars as possible.
The Steelers have current and (hopefully) future stars. They have great depth. They seem to be in a good place.
Again, the Steelers have the look of a young team that is ready to break out. Will they? That remains to be seen, but I remember the days when Gentry was clearly Pittsburgh’s second-best tight end. A fifth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Gentry slowly made strides; in four years, he had gone from mostly an afterthought to a reliable backup who had not only become a very good blocker but also a decent passing target.
A lot of teams would do well with a player like Gentry as their second tight end. Yet, the Steelers just never stopped adding talent to the position. One year after selecting Pat Freiermuth in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Pittsburgh perhaps took a bit of a flier on Cam Heyward’s little brother. I’m talking about Connor Heyward, a jack-of-all-trades youngster who was a sixth-round pick out of Michigan State in the 2022 NFL Draft. It became apparent right away that the selection of the second Heyward wasn’t just nepotism in its most obvious form; no, not only could Little Brother man various positions–including tight end, fullback, running back and even receiver–but he was making plays, both in training camp and preseason. Heyward made the Steelers’ final roster out of training camp and then carved out a nice little niche for himself during his rookie season.
The Steelers looked to have a full and complete tight end room after re-signing Gentry in late March. Then, in late April, Darnell Washington, the stud of a tight end from Georgia, was just too hard to pass up in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Unfortunately, that probably signaled the eventual end of Gentry’s career in Pittsburgh (again, as of this writing).
The Steelers obviously weren’t going to get rid of Freiermuth or their most recent third-round pick. As for the younger Heyward? He was just too versatile (and actually valuable) to be released after one season and two training camps.
Gentry became the unfortunate causality.
I think Gentry is a bit of a microcosm of what the Steelers were just a few years ago and where they are now.
The release of Gentry as recently as two years ago wouldn’t have been newsworthy at all.
In 2023, however, it feels like the Steelers were forced to part ways with a good football player.
That says a lot about the evolution of Zach Gentry, but it also says a lot about the evolution of your Pittsburgh Steelers.
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