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How Matt Canada got Zach Gentry an easy 13 yards vs. the Broncos

The Steeler TE’s blocking turns into an opportunity for a nice catch and run.

NFL: OCT 10 Broncos at Steelers Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Zach Gentry was one of the least beloved members of the Steelers roster the last two seasons, and heading into this season even fans of his college team, the Michigan Wolverines were questioning if he held any value at all on this roster.

Zach Gentry ultimately made the team and has received snaps as the Steelers blocking tight end. A job he is well suited for.

Steelers vs. Broncos, 1st quarter, 14:56

Zach Gentry is the Steeler farthest to the bottom of the screen.

Zach Gentry has become a reliable blocker to the point that the Steelers started the game running right at him and his block on the Broncos edge defender. Gentry wins the block, and the trust the Steelers have that he will win it allows them to send Kevin Dotson through the line, and through a hold, to get to the linebackers and create a nice gain for Najee Harris to start the game.

Steelers vs. Broncos, 1st quarter, 14:20

Zach Gentry is the Steeler farthest to the bottom of the screen.

Zach Gentry helps drive #96, 290 lb. Shelby Harris inside where Dan Moore Jr. can control him, then peels off to block one of the linebackers. Trai Turner and Derek Watt are coming for the edge defender and the other linebacker, this play is designed to create an alley between the blocks of Moore and Gentry and the pulling blockers. Even though Najee Harris has to cut back to the right to start the play, and both Turner and Watt’s targets are able to disrupt the design of the play, Harris gains a couple yards here, in large part because Dan Moore Jr., Kevin Dotson and Zach Gentry do a fantastic job with their blocks.

Zach Gentry is one of the better run blockers on the Steelers, and a main reason the Steelers haven’t used a sixth lineman at all this season. That blocking ability and the high percentage of snaps Gentry spends blocking creates expectation from defenders when they see Gentry line up across from them. They know there’s a high chance the ball is coming their way in Najee Harris’ hands. They know they have to be ready to fight Zach Gentry to make a play.

All of that can be used against them if you have a coordinator that is willing and creative enough to exploit it. Fortunately, the Steelers have Matt Canada.

Steelers vs. Broncos, 1st quarter, 1:43

Zach Gentry is the tight end to the bottom of the screen.

This is a Matt Canada special. A play that has the defense looking in multiple directions, and then attacks them in a completely unexpected way.

The Jet motion draws the attention of the defensive back on JuJu Smith-Schuster, the safety to the side the motion is heading to but also Von Miller, who watches and waits to see if Smith-Schuster is going to get the ball. The play-action fake to Najee Harris draws the attention of the defensive line and the middle linebacker, and the edge that is lined up over Gentry is looking to get to the quarterback as soon as the play-action resolves. I especially love how Gentry is moving outside like he’s following the edge up the arc before just stopping and turning to catch the ball.

That’s great play design and great execution. When Gentry catches the ball the only player paying any attention to him is the inside linebacker who now has Dan Moore Jr. in his face. Gentry turns and runs and doesn’t come in contact with a defender till he’s past the first down line.

As K.T. Smith pointed out in his film room about the offensive line, everything in Matt Canada’s offense revolves around the offensive line and the run game.

With that run game improving, plays like this are going to be more effective. And when teams respect those other threats, they are a step slow to come help against Najee Harris and the run game.

It’s an offense that shines very bright when it is executing at a high level. We’ve also seen how much it can struggle when the execution is bad. With Najee Harris and a talented young line, the Steelers are betting on that execution only getting better from here.