While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have been feeling pretty dejected yesterday in the aftermath of their emotional loss to the New England Patriots the night before, they were at least given the opportunity to welcome back a friendly face that they had not seen in a while.
Marcus Gilbert, the team’s starting right tackle, was activated from the suspended list after serving a four-game term for violating the league’s policy prohibiting the use of banned performance-enhancing substances.
Yet nobody seems to be particularly thrilled. Not because they have anything against Gilbert, but because, on the field, they haven’t really been given any compelling reason to miss him. Chris Hubbard, once a favored whipping boy, has shown himself to be worthy of consideration for a starting job somewhere in the league in 2018, and the Steelers were the beneficiary of that in 2017.
Still, as some may have slowly begun to turn on Gilbert to a degree—he does have a lengthy and concerning history of injuries, for one thing, and a suspension on top of that does not help his case—the return of a quality starting player is nothing but good news.
I definitely would still argue that Gilbert is a better player than Hubbard. Hubbard, I believe, showed that he is capable of starting at right tackle, but Gilbert is one of the top right tackles in the league, and he was playing well this season—when he has been on the field, which has unfortunately been infrequent.
Even if you choose to view the move from Hubbard back to Gilbert a lateral move, while I would still contend that it is an upgrade, at the very least, Gilbert’s return strengthens the Steelers’ depth, as the only thing standing between Jerald Hawkins and a starting job was one injury.
In fact, Hawkins played one snap at left tackle two games ago when Alejandro Villanueva came out of the game on a third down that ended up going incomplete. He was able to return in time for the next drive, but as much as I would like to see Hawkins improve and succeed, I’m not interested in seeing him thrust into the starting lineup just now.
At a time when injuries seem to be mounting for the Steelers, it is at the very least a nice change of pace to be actually getting a player back. Couple that with the return of Joe Haden that is on the horizon, and the pipedream of Vance McDonald lasting for more than a game, and suddenly all seems possible.