With the Pittsburgh Steelers having completed the first portion of their season, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this year and give out some midseason player evaluations.
The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first six games with a winning record despite being 1-2-1 just two weeks ago. Coming off of consecutive strong victories with improve play from both sides of the ball, things are looking up.
The offense has done its part for the most part, but has taken some long vacations. Their disappearing acts in the second half was perplexing, but that has improved. Defensively, the secondary is seemingly becoming a bit more stable after being nothing short of terrible previously, but there are absolutely some real concerns remaining.
Player: Marcus Gilbert, T
Staying healthy has been a challenge for Marcus Gilbert over the course of his career. He has played more than 13 games in a season only twice during his first seven seasons, and through one of those year, he played through a significant ankle injury.
Gilbert has already been dinged this year as well. After playing over 170 snaps through the first two weeks of the season, he suffered a hamstring injury stemming from the workload that resulted in him missing the following game, but he fortunately only missed one week.
Since then, he and the rest of the offensive line have begun to hit their stride, and Gilbert in particular has stepped it up in pass protection. He gave up a sack in the season opener, but has not given up another since, and has hardly allowed any pressure over the past couple of games.
The running game has also picked up over the course of the past two games, though I don’t think that Gilbert in particular has necessarily excelled in that area. Much of the team’s most successful plays have come on the boundary behind interior linemen kicking out, or up the middle, more toward the left side than the right. Alejandro Villanueva has been a more demonstrative performer in the run game so far.
That is not to say that he has been weak in this area by any means. He has become a well-rounded player for half a decade already under Mike Munchak and with a more athletic physique, and that entails playing well in every facet of the game.
This year is no different, but he has played better against the run, and that is something that I would like to keep an eye on heading into the Steelers’ second half of the season. Run-blocking is actually typically a strength for him due to his size and athleticism, and should be again.