Before he was traded in March, Marcus Gilbert was one of the longest-tenured members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, coming into the squad as a second-round pick in 2011. On the current roster, only four players—Ben Roethlisberger, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, and Cameron Heyward—had been here as long or longer.
He was brought in just as the team was coming off of a Super Bowl appearance, and he had perhaps his best season in 2016, the year they came closest to returning. But after two years of injuries to follow and no playoff wins since, he’s now with the Arizona Cardinals on a rebuilding franchise.
He’s been through a lot during those past two seasons, and not just physically. He talked to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN about what it was like to have missed the majority of the past two seasons, and the mental toll that it took on him.
“When you go from playing at a high level, then you’re not out there on the field, and you’re getting a lot from the fans, the coaches and teammates can’t rely on you because you’re not out there — all those things mount, and it’s tough”, he told Fowler.
“Nasty tweets, lots of questions, and you read the articles. Athletes can say that doesn’t bother them, but you see it”. Lots of players claim that they don’t read their press, but I’m sure the reality is that the majority of them do to some extent. Sometimes it’s unavoidable.
He talked about going to therapy to help him deal with some of the emotional issues that he was going through, particularly stemming from the playing time that he missed last season stemming from what he classified as a freak injury coming out of the bye week, which contributed to him missing a total of 11 games in 2018.
He said that “you can never be surprised with NFL business” in terms of getting traded. But he added that he understands the Steelers respected him and that he did not take the move personally. He knows that he wanted to be getting a contract extension right about now, which he would have been if not for the injuries most likely, but instead is trying to prove himself all over again in Arizona.
“Once I get on the field, I’ll have my play speak for itself. I feel like I have a lot of time left. I want to take on more of a leadership role”, he said. In Pittsburgh, he always had Pouncey and Foster as the top dogs in the offensive line room, but I think he can certainly take the mantle with the Cardinals.
From 2014 on, when he was healthy and on the field, Gilbert was legitimately one of the top right tackles in the NFL, even though that never amounted to Pro Bowl recognition. If he had been healthy in one of the past two years, perhaps he would have received that honor, giving that the team sent three linemen to the Pro Bowl in both. For now, he’s just looking to show everybody that he is still the same player, and past the injuries.