Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: Marcus Gilbert
Stock Value: Down
I’m going to write this article and I’m just going to hope that it doesn’t produce an overreaction to my analysis of the value, which takes a projected long-term view relative to what we have seen happen in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Steelers’ decision to use a third-round pick on offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor is a slight ding to starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert’s value. It’s not going to affect his status as a starter this year, and probably not next year either, but it does raise some questions that are primarily dependent upon what the rookie shows.
Here’s the thing. Gilbert is very talented on the field, and has legitimately worked himself into the conversation as one of the top right tackles in the league. At the same time, he also spends a lot of time on the sidelines due to injuries, not even factoring in his four-game suspension a year ago.
Then there is this stark reality: he’s 30 years old now and has two years left on his contract. What happens if Okorafor has a really promising rookie season? If he wins the swing tackle job, history suggests he’s going to get on the field.
If this happens and he plays well, the Steelers are going to have to think long and hard about whether or not they want to give Gilbert an extension next year. And it would not be cheap. Gilbert knows how relatively poorly he is paid in comparison to the rest of the right tackle market. He has hinted about his contract since last season already.
It would be one thing if he were a 16-game starter and making Pro Bowls, but not matter how good Gilbert is on the field, he comes with some baggage, and some of that baggage is old age. He’ll be 31 when he’s up for an extension, or 32 when he hits free agency.
How much tread do the Steelers think will still be on the tires at that point? Okorafor is going to have a season or two under Mike Munchak to learn his craft from the best in the business and the chips are going to fall where they may.
They may fall flat on their faces, with the rookie proving to be just a backup at best, in which case Gilbert will be entering negotiations from a position of strength. But for now, the addition of a third-round tackle is a slight ding against his potential long-term value.
You may now flip out.