Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert may have struggled through the first two games of the season somewhat, particularly in pass protection, where he was beaten for a pair of sacks in both of those contests.
This was following a brand new long-term contract, to go along with some improved play showcased during the season, so while the former increased consternation over his struggles, the latter provided hope of improvement.
Which is exactly what we’ve seen over the past two games, during which the fourth-year offensive lineman has likely been the team’s best, and most consistent, member of said line in both run blocking and in pass protection.
It’s admittedly been a pleasant surprise to witness his improved play over the course of this year, and over the last two games in particular, given how many questions have been raised about his performance, as well as long-term potential, during the first three years of his career.
His work ethic was questioned before he even played a game, though it was lacking at the time, admittedly, suggested by reports that Maurkice Pouncey, who is among his best friends, had to have a talk with him about professionalism.
He surprised, overall, as a rookie when called upon to play in just the second game of his career when right tackle Willie Colon was lost for the season in the opener.
He started, if I recall correctly, 13 games in the regular season, and the Steelers moved Colon to guard the next season. Gilbert, unfortunately, missed most of his sophomore season, but he did play every game a year ago, often through pain.
His play on the field had not been consistent, however, nor very inspiring. But Gilbert has undoubtedly been new offensive line coach Mike Munchak’s best pupil during the Hall of Famer’s first year in Pittsburgh.
It had been talked about by many during the offseason that he had improved his stance and technique, and was playing more aggressive and less reactively during training camp.
This showed up during the preseason as well, in the midst of which he was rewarded with a new six-year contract.
The Steelers are hoping that he plays out that contract, and does so at the level that he’s shown over the last two games—especially given the way that another former second-round pick, Mike Adams, has panned out so far.
Take it for what it’s worth, but despite his uneven performances in the first two games, Pro Football Focus rates Gilbert as the tenth-highest graded tackle through the first quarter of the season, and the fourth-highest among right tackles. He does, however, need to cut down on the penalties, which has been a team-wide concern thus far.