Former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Zach Gentry has found a new home.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported on September 5 that Gentry is signing a contract to join the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad.
Gentry began the offseason signing a contact with the Steelers, which Pelissero also reported. But Gentry was among the players released on the final roster cutdown day on August 29 for the Steelers.
He will now continue his career with one of Pittsburgh’s top rivals.
Steelers Released TE Zach Gentry as Part of Final Cuts
The Steelers only kept two primary tight ends with Pat Freiermuth and rookie Darnell Washington. Second-year player Connor Heyward, who is listed as a full back on some Steelers depth charts, can also play tight end and made the roster.
Gentry, though, did not.
The Athletic’s Mike DeFabo called Gentry Pittsburgh’s “most noteworthy player released” on the final roster cutdown day. DeFabo argued that the arrival of Washington made Gentry expendable.
“The 6-foot-8 Gentry deserves credit for developing himself from a quarterback recruit at Michigan into a reliable blocking tight end in the NFL,” DeFabo wrote. “But ultimately, Darnell Washington’s rapid ascension and intriguing mismatch potential as a 6-7, 265-pound chess piece put Gentry’s roster spot in jeopardy.”
When the Steelers re-signed Gentry on March 25, they likely had every intention of making him a significant part of the offense in 2023. Freiermuth is expected to be the team’s top receiving threat at tight end, but Gentry is a strong blocker. In 2021, Pro Football Focus ranked Gentry a top 5 pass blocker and above-average run blocker at tight end.
However, Pittsburgh’s tight end plan apparently changed when Washington was still available in the third round. Although Washington came into the draft with questions about the health of his knee, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein slotted him as a first-round talent.
So at No. 93 overall, Washington had simply too much upside for the Steelers to pass on.
In May, Bleacher Report’s Joe Tansey called Heyward a cut or trade candidate for the Steelers. However, his versatility likely gave him an edge against Gentry in the team’s final roster decisions.
Over four NFL seasons, Gentry has recorded 39 receptions for 303 yards. Last season, he had 19 catches for 132 yards.
Gentry Signing With Bengals Practice Squad
With Gentry, the Bengals have completed their practice squad signings. Tanner Hudson is Cincinnati’s other tight end on its practice squad.
On the 53-man roster, the Bengals have Irv Smith Jr., Drew Sample and Mitchell Wilcox at tight end.
Sample has also been a solid tight end for the Bengals. In 2020, he had 40 receptions for 349 yards and a touchdown.
But none of the Bengals tight ends (on the active roster or practice squad) have more experience than Gentry, who was a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
That experience may be helpful for Gentry eventually getting a chance to play for the Cincinnati.
Gentry will have a couple of months to earn a roster spot if he wants to face his former team. The Steelers will face the Bengals for the first time this season on November 26.