Pittsburgh Steelers rookie tackle Marcus Gilbert said tonight on a live Spreecast video chat that he was told by the coaching staff during his exit meetings that that there is a “strong possibility” that he will be flipped over to left tackle next season. Gilbert started 14 games at right tackle for the Steelers in 2011.
This news is not very surprising considering that Willie Colon is expected to return from his triceps injury suffered week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens to be the Steelers starting right tackle. Colon signed a 5-year, $29 million dollar contract late last July and reportedly is fully recovered now. In addition to Colon returning from injury, unrestricted free agent Max Starks, who suffered a torn ACL in his right knee against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Wild Card game, is not expected to be brought back in 2012. Starks
had is having surgery to repair the ACL this week and his recovery might take him a good 7-8 months.
Gilbert, the Steelers 2nd round draft pick last April out of Florida, said during the video chat in regards to the possible move to left tackle, “Wherever they feel they need me at I will be willing to step in and do it. I have played both tackle positions and am very comfortable at both sides. When my number is called, trust me I will be ready go.”
With both the left and right tackle spots likely now set, and Starks unlikely to return in 2012, the question becomes the depth at the position. Jonathan Scott is under contract for 2012, but his $2.7 million cap charge makes him a candidate to be an early cut. Trai Essex is an unrestricted free agent and more of a swing guard than he is a swing tackle in my opinion. He can play all 5 spots on the offensive line, but it might be time to cut the cord for good with him. Jamon Meredith, who didn\’t play a snap for the Steelers in 2011, is a restricted free agent, and the Steelers certainly could do better if he is even retained with a lowest possible tender or a one-year deal for the minimum.
That leaves Chris Scott and Trevis Turner as the only remaining tackles that are guaranteed to be in Latrobe at this point as both have been re-signed to future deals since the end of the season. Scott, one of the Steelers three 5th round draft picks in 2010, is more of a guard than he is a tackle and Turner, who spent 2011 on the practice squad, was an undrafted free agent signing. Turner has the best shot right now in my opinion of being the swing tackle unless a low priced free agent is signed or the Steelers draft another tackle in the earlier rounds this coming April. You can bet he will get a long look during training camp and the preseason.