Fourth-year right tackle Marcus Gilbert was probably the Pittsburgh Steelers’ best lineman during the preseason, but he had serious issues working against the Cleveland Browns in pass protection, giving up at least two sacks on his own, as well as a third on a Ben Roethlisberger fumble.
But that wasn’t his only issue in pass protection. He also failed to diagnose a stunt here and there, and at other times was not properly set on a play or ill-prepared to kick slide with a wide rusher or speed rusher off the edge.
While his run blocking during the game overall was solid—several times he did a nice job of crashing the edge and jamming traffic on carries off right tackle—his performance in pass protection was enough to give pause.
Gilbert was just signed to a long new contract, and his performance during the preseason seemed to show that it was money well spent, but he will need to bounce back from this rough first outing.
With the Steelers facing third and goal from the 14-yard line on their opening drive due to a holding penalty on Kelvin Beachum, the Browns dropped eight and only rushed three defensive linemen. The Steelers sent out five eligible receivers, leaving just the offensive line against the defensive line.
With outside linebacker Paul Kruger serving as an end, he went one on one against Gilbert, stretching him out wide and then bull rushing the right tackle until he was able to reach the quarterback for the sack.
Even though this play went for a 30-yard gain after Roethlisberger hit his escape valve, it still shows Gilbert’s issues. With the defensive tackle and outside linebacker working a stunt, Gilbert was slow to follow. When the outside linebacker looped inside, David DeCastro pulled off the lineman to pick him up.
The problem is that Gilbert’s attention was drawn by the linebacker as well, and it took him half a second to realize that he’d released the defensive tackle. He had to double back, nearly bumping into Roethlisberger, to pick up the block.
The Steelers were driving midway through the third quarter before Roethlisberger was sacked on second down. On third down, he wasn’t prepared for the snap, and it bounced off of his facemask. Gilbert wasn’t able to hold Kruger back, and he was able to sack the quarterback.
Early in the fourth quarter, with the Steelers backed up in their own end, defensive end Armonty Bryant caught Gilbert off guard with a speed rush that he wasn’t prepared for. He found his upper body moving before his lower half did, and it was all he could do just to push the end around the pocket and allow Roethlisberger to step up and throw an incompletion.
On third down, Jabaal Sheard was able to get the better of Gilbert as well. Sheard used a bull rush to drive Gilbert back into the pocket. He was pushed back into DeCastro, which allowed Sheard to turn the corner, and he was able to latch on to the quarterback’s leg for a sack.