Rare has it been in the six-year professional football career of Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert that he has actually been able to fully participate with the team throughout the course of an entire season. His career has been plagued by injuries, and the 2016 season has been no exception.
Aside from last season, Gilbert has dealt with a significant injury in every season of his career that has at least caused him to miss the majority of a game, and often time in multiple games. While he has twice started 16 games, one of those seasons was far from a healthy one.
The latest injury for Gilbert—who already entered the regular season dealing with a shoulder injury that may be operated upon surgically after the football season is over—has been a mid-foot injury, which has caused him to miss the Steelers’ last three games.
The team expected him to be able to return to practice in the build-up to the Patriots game, but that never happened, and he, of course, never played. Chris Hubbard has started in his place over the course of the past three games. While the third-year reserve has done a commendable job filling in, Gilbert’s return would be a boost to the offense.
And he did finally return to practice yesterday, as did a number of other injured Steelers. “I started out slow”, he said of his return, “then progressed and finished out pretty strong”, according to Ray Fittipaldo for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Gilbert is driven to return because of his love of the game, and of his teammates. The offensive line, which has been together for a while now, has a camaraderie that can only develop with time, and which breeds a desire to play for each other.
“I was glad to be back out there with my guys”, he said. In a later answer, he said, “I love this game so much. I miss being out there with my guys. Anything I can do to give my all, I’m going to get back out there to help this team”.
For his part, Gilbert did tell reporters that he plans on being able to return to face the Ravens, who, like the Steelers, are riding a losing streak coming into the crucial divisional battle, though Baltimore’s is twice as long, even if Pittsburgh comes in with the better record.
While I would not put the blame of either recent loss on Hubbard—even if a holding penalty took a touchdown off the board—Gilbert’s return, at the very least, would greatly strengthen the Steelers’ offensive line depth. In addition, it would take some burden off the struggling David DeCastro, who has helped Hubbard integrate into the lineup.
Through six seasons, Gilbert has missed at least two games four times. He missed two games during his rookie season, then 11 in 2012. He missed another four games in 2014, and added another three this year, to give him a total of 20 games missed in his career.