With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.
The team as a whole has suffered its ups and downs throughout the season, particularly the bi-polar offense that prefers the comforts of home. Even with all the road struggles, however, the Steelers are ranked seventh in the league in scoring, averaging 26.2 points per game.
On the flip side, the defense has struggled not only with youth and inexperience but also with injuries, en route to posting the 19th-best defense in points allowed, giving up 23.9 points per game, with hopes to start changing that down the home stretch.
Player: Marcus Gilbert, RT
Marcus Gilbert was one of a handful of Steelers veterans to receive a new contract or extension during this offseason after the coaching staff observed his maturation under new offensive line coach Mike Munchak.
That seemed to be faith well placed after a strong preseason slate, but Gilbert got off to a rough start to begin his fourth regular season, as he wound up surrendering a bundle of sacks over the first two games.
Since then, however, he has settled down, and certainly played no worse than adequately, as a player that now seems to have the makings of a long-term option at right tackle, as the Steelers had hoped when they gave him his new deal.
If there is one area in which he has been disappointing, it has been his propensity to draw penalties. He has drawn more fouls than anybody else on the offensive side of the ball this year, although one might argue that Gilbert is just feeling nostalgic for the days of Willie Colon manning the right book end of the Steelers offensive line.
Joking aside, the former second-round pick has certainly shown progress this year, even if he is coming off one of his worst games of the season. While he is only moderately agile for his size, he will always struggle with speed rushers, particularly as they become more prominent on the left side of defenses.
Where he has shown the most improvement may be in supporting the run. Outside of a few select games over the course of his first three seasons, Gilbert’s play has been too passive in this area, and has been one of the reasons many have hoped that Mike Adams could take over the position. With his improved play in the running game, however, this is of lesser concern.
It sounds as though Gilbert will miss his second start of the year after taking the worst of a collision in practice earlier this week, which will give Adams as second chance at showing something, but I hardly think the elder lineman’s job is in jeopardy.