With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and there soon being little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.
The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first eight games with a 6-2 record, tied for the best in the AFC along with the Patriots.
The offense has not lived up to its billing for the most part this year, though the running game has had its moments. Defensively, the sacks have come, and the secondary has improved, but there will always be things to work on.
Player: Marcus Gilbert, RT
I wish I had more to say about Marcus Gilbert than I will. I wish that because it means that I will have had more to talk about, because he will have been on the field more frequently. But as it currently stands, he has only played the equivalent of about two out of eight games this season, even if he has technically started three.
While he has been on the field—in the first, second, and sixth games—I have had no complaints about the veteran right tackle’s performance. He seemed to be doing quite well in particular in pass protection, and I recall a few screen passes on which he did a nice job of getting down the field to block.
But he hasn’t been on the field nearly enough. He left early in the fourth quarter of the second game of the season with a hamstring injury, missing the next three weeks only to try to return three games later. He made it through one quarter before he checked himself out at the end of a scoring drive and missed the rest of the game.
It has been a nagging hamstring injury that has dogged the seventh-year veteran, reaggravating the previous injury. He has missed more time already this year than he has in any season except his second, during which he dealt with a season-ending injury in the first half of the year.
But, with the bye week to his advantage, he has had another three weeks to bounce back from this latest incarnation of his hamstring injury, and he has so far not even been listed on the practice report, a strong indication that he is up and ready to go for the second half of the season.
The Steelers have been fortunate to get above-the-line play from Gilbert’s backup, this season once again being Chris Hubbard, though now because he earned it, and not by necessity. But even Hubbard would admit that getting Gilbert back will be an asset to this offense.