The Pittsburgh Steelers waived cornerback Justin Gilbert this past week and the former first round draft pick has since cleared waivers and is thus now a free agent.
While Gilbert is currently no longer on the Steelers roster, Bob Labriola of steelers.com recently wrote that we just might not have seen the last of him in Pittsburgh and that the team is not opposed to bringing him back to compete for a roster sport.
“They have not closed the door on Gilbert’s return, but it would have to be at a lesser price than $2.2 million for 2017,” Labriola wrote in his latest Asked and Answered post.
Even though we found out after Gilbert was waived this past week that none of the money he was scheduled to earn in 2017 as part of his final contract year was guaranteed as was long believed, it was evidently too much to warrant carrying him throughout the offseason. The Steelers, however, wasted no time in cutting him loose on Monday, the first day of waivers for 2017.
Part of me thinks there’s more to the story than just his scheduled 2017 salary when it comes to Gilbert being waived so early and perhaps something will surface related to that in the coming weeks.
During a November interview with Labriola, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Gilbert is still “very much” in the team’s plans moving forward.
“You often cannot see it, because of the nature of position he’s in. He’s the No. 4 cornerback right now,” Tomlin said at the time. “The fourth corner is primarily a special-teamer until something happens to one of three guys, and then the fourth corner is playing about 45 snaps a game. I routinely have that conversation with him, and I’ll tell Steelers Nation that.
“His progress has been very good. He’s improving every day. He’s getting the detail required to be a positive contributor to our efforts. If anything happens to one of three guys, and that’s the interesting thing about the fourth corner position, he can become an every-down football player. And the same thing could occur with Justin. He’s been working diligently on a daily basis, and when he gets an opportunity I’m sure he’ll be excited to show the people what he’s capable of.”
Immediately after uttering those words about Gilbert, Tomlin listed the cornerback as one of the Steelers seven inactives for the team’s Week 16 game against the Baltimore Ravens. It’s worth noting, however, that Gilbert did not practice all week ahead of that game because of an illness.
After seeing the bulk of his 2016 playing time on defense during the Steelers Week 4 game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Gilbert barely sniffed the field the remainder of the season outside of playing some special teams.
It goes without saying that if Gilbert is ultimately re-signed in the coming weeks and months it will be for the NFL minimum for his accrued years. Personally, I will be surprised if that ultimately happens, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t or won’t.