The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How much will Marcus Gilbert’s injuries in 2018 affect his future with the team in 2019 and beyond?
Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert is actually one of the best players at his position in the game. The only problem is that, especially lately, he really doesn’t spend enough time actually playing his position. The veteran has still not practiced coming into Friday, which strongly suggests he is unlikely to play yet again on Sunday.
That will be his fourth consecutive game out and fifth overall for the year, which will mean that Matt Feiler will have played the position as much this season as has Gilbert. Last season, Chris Hubbard actually played more at tight tackle, though Gilbert missed four games due to suspension, and not to injury.
The fact of the matter is that the 2011 second-round pick has only played two of eight seasons now in which he has missed fewer than three games. And while they lost a tackle in free agency this year, they seem to have a decent supply of potential waiting in the wings.
Gilbert will be in the final year of his contract next year. Thanks to Le’Veon Bell’s 14.55 million, there won’t be a cap crunch, so he might not be a casualty in 2019 (they could save a little under $5 million by cutting him), but the odds of him getting an extension have certainly decreased since 2016.
Aside from Feiler, who has played well to very well so far in his four starts, they just drafted Chukwuma Okorafor in the third round, who has represented himself well as the tackle-eligible. There is also Jerald Hawkins on injured reserve, and Zach Banner, picked up in training camp, was a 2017 fourth-round pick who showed well enough in the preseason to force the team to carry him on the 53-man roster.
It would be one thing if he was as good as he is on the field and actually stays there consistently, but they have not been getting that from him. Will this be his last season in Pittsburgh? Will 2019? He will also turn 31 in February.