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Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 Exit Interviews: Connor Heyward and Zach Gentry

Each player brought something different to the table to the tight end room in 2022

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 NFL season has come to a close. Because the Steelers are among the 31 teams who did not finish fulfilling their ultimate goal, they are in the process of wrapping up their season and moving forward into 2023.

Since the Steelers conduct exit interviews with all their players, we here at BTSC thought we would do the same. By outlining two players each day, we will be able to look at their season in retrospect as well as looking toward the future. Since Coach Tomlin has previously stated he starts his interviews with rookies, first year players, and those heading into free agency, we will do the same. To start, we will pair a potential free agent with a first-year player as we work through this process to eventually cover the entire Steelers roster.

Next up are tight ends Connor Heyward and Zach Gentry

Connor Heyward

Pittsburgh Steelers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Position: Tight end
Years with the Steelers: 1
Years in the NFL: 1
Contract Status: Signed through 2025
Contract Details: $908,806 salary cap hit for 2023. Would cost the Steelers $116,418 in dead money if released while saving $792,388.
Games played in 2022: 17 regular season
Games started in 2022: 0 regular season
Snaps (regular season): 174 (offense), 284 (special teams)
PFF score: 74.1 (DNQ for ranking)
Notable stats: Connor Hayward was targeted 17 times with 12 receptions for 151 yards and one touchdown his rookie season. Heyward also had two rushes for 27 yards. Additionally, he had nine tackles on special teams.

Notes: Connor Hayward knew exactly what to do in order to make the Pittsburgh Steelers roster in 2022. Maybe he had some insight from his brother or maybe it was just his natural ability, but offering something different in the Steelers offense whether at H-back or the tight end position had him utilized for well over 100 snaps. Additionally, playing the second most snaps on special teams and adding nine tackles made him necessary every week as the third tight end option. Moving forward, Heyward has made himself a near lock for the 2023 roster just due to special teams, let alone having an increased role in the offense.

Zach Gentry

Pittsburgh Steelers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Position: Tight end
Years with the Steelers: 4
Years in the NFL: 4
Contract Status: Free Agent
Contract Details: Contract expiring with no dead money.
Games played in 2022: 17 regular season
Games started in 2022: 13 regular season
Snaps (regular season): 577 (offense), 72 (special teams)
PFF score: 47.4 (72nd of 74)
Notable stats: Gentry had 19 receptions on 23 targets for 132 yards.

Notes: Sticking around on his rookie contract through all four years, former fifth-round pick Zach Gentry started 13 games for the Steelers as their blocking tight end as the Steelers typically begin the game in a running formation. Although not a primary weapon in the offense, Gentry was targeted in most of the Steelers games this season and even had five receptions against the Buffalo Bills. While many tight ends in today’s NFL may be closer to wide receivers, Gentry seemed to embrace the role of being an additional blocker on the offensive line and was an asset to the offense in 2022. Whether or not there will be a high demand for his services on the open market or if he will want to return to Pittsburgh is yet to be determined.

Make sure you check back each day for another set of exit interviews. If you have missed any of the previous articles, they are listed here:

Kenny Pickett & Mason Rudolph
George Pickens & Miles Boykin
DeMarvin Leal & Larry Ogunjobi