The Pittsburgh Steelers had the most stability along the offensive line in the league over the course of the past four seasons. From 2015 through the 2018 season, the same five offensive linemen opened the season opener, from left to right: Alejandro Villanueva; Ramon Foster; Maurkice Pouncey; David DeCastro; and Marcus Gilbert.
While it’s true that Gilbert has missed the majority of the past two seasons due to a number of injuries in addition to a four-game suspension served in the second half of the 2017 season, he is one of the better right tackles in all of the NFL when he is actually healthy and on the field contributing.
He would have had another shot at proving just that in 2019 with the Steelers until they decided, perhaps with other moves in mind, that they could no longer take that risk, after getting capable play at the position without him, and having built depth in the process.
The team traded him yesterday to the Arizona Cardinals for a late sixth-round pick, opening up about $5 million in salary cap space, and the door for either Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, Jerald Hawkins, or Zach Banner—literally, any one of them—to enter the starting lineup.
Gilbert was originally a second-round draft pick out of Florida in 2011, drafted in part on the recommendation of Pouncey, as the two were extremely close as teammates in college. While he started as early as his second game—due to a season-ending injury to Willie Colon—it wasn’t until a few years into his career that he really blossomed.
And he deserves the credit for turning his career around, even if he had help. There was talk during his first three seasons in the league that he did not have a professional attitude and was not taking his job as seriously as he needed to. He was also not in the physical shape that would allow him best to succeed.
But fueled by a desire for a bigger contract—and a nudge from his good friend, Pouncey—things began to change, starting with his attitude, then his technique, then his body, and finally his performance. By 2014, he was beginning to bloom into one of the top right tackles.
Gilbert performed at a Pro Bowl level when he was healthy, and perhaps was a snub in 2016, the only time that he has ever started all 16 games and been healthy for them. But for the rest of his career, he was never on the field enough to earn such accolades.
I hope for Gilbert to have a tremendous amount of success with the Cardinals through the end of his career. Now 31 years old, the Cardinals are unlikely to offer him an extension given his injury history, so his age-32 season in 2020 might be his last bite of the apple to make his final fortunes playing football.