Pittsburgh Steelers starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert has missed the team’s last three games since the bye week after suffering a knee injury during practice. There was optimism that he would be able to return to the field for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, but that obviously did not end up happening.
During his weekly Tuesday press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Gilbert’s participation in practice during the course of the previous week was not above the line from a health standpoint, and thus was inactive despite being listed as probable.
Mike Adams started his third consecutive game at right tackle for the Steelers in his stead. Tomlin said that he felt Adams had been giving “quality work”, though many would certainly beg to differ. Health, nevertheless, was the deciding factor. While there was optimism from Tomlin that Gilbert would be healthy enough to play this week, he suggested that his week of practice would determine if he will start.
In his last two games, of course, Adams was given the opportunity to go up against two of the worst teams in the league in terms of sacking the quarterback, which may have something to do with Tomlin’s positive evaluation. He will not be given the same luxury if he is still in the starting lineup on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs rank tied for sixth in the league with 38 sacks on the season, 17 of which have come from outside linebacker Justin Houston, against whom either Gilbert or Adams will be lining up on Sunday.
The Steelers’ previous two opponents combined have accumulated only 34 sacks on the year. Houston alone has more sacks than the Falcons have had as a team, and that even includes one sack allowed by Adams on Sunday when he missed picking up a stunt.
Of course, the main criticism about Adams during his first three seasons has been his performance in pass protection, and a team such as the Chiefs, with a pass rusher of Houston’s caliber, certainly runs the very real risk of blowing open the game if Ben Roethlisberger can’t consistently dodge pressure from his right side.
The truth of the matter, however, is that Adams has not done particularly well as a run blocker, either. Last week, I broke down some of his struggles in the running game, despite the fact that Le’Veon Bell rushed for 185 yards.
It would be a benefit to the offense if the Steelers were able to get Gilbert back, but only if he is actually healthy enough to perform on an adequate level, particularly keeping in mind that he’ll be facing Houston. He has had his struggles with similar pass rushers this season. In other words, the Steelers may be presented with no good options this week between Adams and a less than healthy Gilbert.