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Zach Gentry is ready for Year 2, and points out the huge difference from rookie to second year

The former Michigan tight end is ready to prove his worth in 2020.

NFL: AUG 03 Steelers Training Camp Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a need at the tight end position. When fans talk about the tight ends on the current roster, they make some easy assumptions.

  • Vance McDonald could see his club option denied to create salary cap space.
  • Nick Vannett is an Unrestricted Free Agent, with his future with the team anything but certain.
  • Zach Gentry hardly played in 2020, and didn’t seem like the long-term answer at the tight end position.

With all that said, if the Steelers cut ties with McDonald and lose Vannett in free agency, they have no other options with NFL experience but Gentry. Quite the depressing thought for a fan base who once proudly touted the longevity and success of Heath Miller.

But what if Gentry turns heads in his sophomore season with the Steelers? Could his rookie season have taught him enough to help his development to the point where he can become an impact player as both a blocker and pass catcher?

That is the hope, and Gentry is ready for the challenge.

“I am going to be in the weight room all offseason working,” Gentry told Teresa Varley of “I want to make sure I continue to get stronger. I want to work on flexibility to make sure I can bend my hips and stay lower to the ground.

”It’s a no brainer for me to stay here. I can work with the conditioning staff, I can have the training staff here, everything I need I have here. I don’t see a point in leaving. It’s a new home so I am glad I am staying here.”

What will be different this year? How will this offseason compare to Gentry’s lead up to his rookie season?

“A rookie year is challenging, but it’s what we all signed up for,” said Gentry. “It’s a lot going from the last season of college football, right into combine training, then preparing for the NFL Draft and the season. You have a 20-game season with the preseason. It’s challenging but rewarding at the same time.

”I am excited for this offseason. I can’t wait to work and not have to worry about a hand-held time in the 40-yard dash. I can’t wait to know what is in front of me. I can’t wait for my second season to come and know what I need to work on and just go for it.

”I am excited to not be a rookie anymore and come back with that first year under my belt and keep working.”

Fans don’t have fond memories of Gentry, if any at all. He was inactive for 12 games and in the four games he played coming away with just one reception for four yards. Not exactly invoking confidence in the fan base, but Gentry is smart enough to realize his rookie season was a learning experience, even if a tough one.

“It’s always tough as a competitor,” said Gentry. “I was inactive for a lot of the games, just watching. That is tough as a competitor being on the sidelines watching. It’s a numbers game. At the end of the day it is what it is. I am setting myself up to be more of a role and a factor next season.

”I learned a lot this year. Just the ins and outs of everyday life in the NFL. I was lucky. I had a lot of guys to look up to in the locker room. I was happy because I felt like I was able to learn every day and that’s what I needed.”

Could Gentry be the man for the Steelers at tight end? Maybe not as the super athletic tight end, but as someone who can be both a blocker and pass catcher so the team doesn’t have to rely on Zach Banner as the eligible tight end.

It may seem far fetched right now, but I would suggest Gentry’s rookie season was not nearly a big enough sample size to judge his overall role with the team. Either way, it seems as if Gentry is ready to prove those doubters wrong in Year 2. The question then becomes do the Steelers believe he is capable? Only time will tell...

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they press on throughout the 2020 offseason.