Matt Williamson released his top offensive linemen rankings over on Today’s Pigskin and three Pittsburgh Steelers’ made the list. In his top 15 tackles, Marcus Gilbert sneaked his way onto the 15th spot while in his list for the top 20 interior linemen, Williamson tabs David DeCastro 5th and Maurkice Pouncey 16th.
For Gilbert, Williamson writes:
“Gilbert is as solid of a starting right tackle as you will find in this league. He is tough, plays through injuries and is one of the unsung heroes of the Steelers’ exceptional offense.”
Gilbert’s toughness is certainly an underrated attribute and explains some his poor play early in his career. Now healthy and a refined technique, I’ve noticed he’s carried his hands much higher to create a better punch, Gilbert has become a quality tackle that rarely gets the press he deserves.
He’s the only Steeler to make the tackle list or honorable mentions. Kelvin Beachum failed to make the list either. Coming in first place for Williamson was Tyron Smith. Two AFC North left tackles crack the top three – Cleveland’s Joe Thomas and Cincinnati’s Andrew Whitworth.
On the interior, here’s what Williamson had to say about the 5th place DeCastro.
“DeCastro is filling in where Alan Faneca left off for the Steelers. He is getting better and better and now ranks among the best pure guards in football. He is a cornerstone player on an exceptional Pittsburgh offense that has players all over these top position lists.”
It’s hard to disagree with DeCastro’s ranking or the explanation.He made his first Pro Bowl and the AP’s All-Pro team last season. And he only just turned 26.
Despite not playing a snap last season, Pouncey still managed to crack the top 20, though Williamson cautions about how well the center will bounce back.
“Pouncey is one of the best in the game when he is healthy. And at this point, his durability is just a massive weakness. Could he return to Pittsburgh’s lineup next year and possibly be the best center in the game? That is possible without question, but he has become hard to rely on.”
Pouncey has been a full-go at OTAs and is expected to be the same for training camp in late July. He did admit that he had more than two surgeries last year to fix complications – including at least one infection – from the broken fibula he suffered in the preseason.
Speaking to reporters after Day One of OTAs, Pouncey confirmed there was “no chance” he was going to ever be able to return, despite Mike Tomlin’s gameful optimism.
“The second one was to clear up everything. But I had multiple ones. Two wasn’t even the number,” he told reporters.
Pouncey never seemed to pinpoint the exact number of times he went under the knife. But if he returns to pre-injury form, he’ll be a massive upgrade over Cody Wallace and decrease Ben Roethlisberger’s already career-low 2015 sack percentage even further.