The Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten some strong performances this preseason from some rookies. Damoun Patterson had a very encouraging game in the first preseason contest. The following week, second-rounder James Washington put up big numbers and undrafted Matthew Thomas stepped up on defense.
Washington and Thomas both made Pro Football Focus’ Team of the Week for week two of the preseason. This time around, it’s two stalwart veterans representing the Steelers for the third week of preseason games: right tackle Marcus Gilbert and defensive end Stephon Tuitt.
According to their numbers, Gilbert did not allow any pressure in his pass-blocking snaps on Saturday against the Tennessee Titans’ starters, posting a perfect pass-blocking efficiency rating in 28 snaps working in pass protection. “He was even better as a run blocker”, the article reads, “producing an 82.9 PFF grade in that regard”.
As for Tuitt, his impact was a little easier to spot, as he spent a good deal of time in the Titans’ backfield. It helps especially that in one of his trips beyond the line of scrimmage, he was able to take down Marcus Mariota along with himself on the way to the ground.
“Tuitt was another player who impressed in the trenches for the Steelers this week, proving to be too much to handle as a pass-rusher”, PFF’s article reads. “From 12 pass-rushing snaps, he picked up a pressure every four snaps, finishing the game with a sack, a hit and a hurry”.
Both Gilbert and Tuitt are coming off disappointing seasons derailed largely by injuries. Tuitt suffered a significant arm injury on literally the second play of the season. He would miss the rest of that contest and the next two before getting back on the field, ultimately playing 12 games and seeing his productivity numbers dip substantially as he played with a bum wing.
As for Gilbert, he also suffered an injury early in the season, but he was also hit with a four-game suspension in the second half of the year. He ended up missing more than half of the Steelers’ offensive snaps during the regular season, which helped Chris Hubbard earn a starter’s contract with the Cleveland Browns as he filled in at right tackle.
It’s a good sign that both of these veterans are playing well. Gilbert and Tuitt each have Pro Bowl-level talent and are fully capable of reaching that status as early as this season. Only David DeCastro is better than Gilbert at this point along the offensive line, and Tuitt in terms of talent is Cameron Heyward’s equal, though he has much ground to gain in terms of consistency.