End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Marcus Gilbert
Position: Right Tackle
Experience: 4 Years
Marcus Gilbert got his season off to a good start—financially, that is—when the front office signed him to a new long-term deal that will ostensibly keep him over on the right edge for much of the remainder of this decade.
It seemed like a wise investment at the time. He showed during the preseason that he had taking to the coaching of new offensive line coach Mike Munchak, playing with better leverage and technique, and that is when he got his deal done.
But the regular season got off to a rough start, and he ended up surrendering a pair of sacks in each of the first two games. After those two initial games, however, he began to play very well, stringing together a number of solid performances, both in pass protection and as a run blocker.
It did seem as though he turned the season around, but then he began to get banged up, missing most of one game and then the following start, only to return to face the Ravens in a game in which he struggled in pass protection. He went on to miss another handful of games late in the season after suffering a knee injury in practice, but returned to the starting lineup for the penultimate game of the regular season.
The Steelers did not run the ball well in either of those games, but much of that came off the left side. In pass protection, he fared well in the season finale, but that must be taken in the context of the fact that he was playing against one of the worst pass-rushing teams in the league.
Gilbert was forced to go up against the Ravens for a third time in the year, a team that had no shortage of quality pass rushers in 2014, for the Steelers’ playoff game, and, once again, he struggled in pass protection, giving up another sack and a number of hurries.
Gilbert does still have some work to do on the edge, even if some of his late struggles could have been influenced by his injury. He could also stand to cut down on penalties. But at the end of the day, he is a solid right tackle with the potential to be a bit more than that, especially if he can stay healthy.