The Pittsburgh Steelers ended the 2019 season much as they did the 2018 season, by allowing their playoff fate slip out of their grasp. Slow starts and slow finishes permeated both campaigns, with strong runs in between. But while the results were the same missing the playoffs, the means were quite different.
Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we. But that they still managed to go 8-8 without Ben Roethlisberger, and with the general quality of play that they faced along the way, I suppose things could have been worse.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2018 season.
Player: Ulysees Gilbert III
Experience: 1 Year
I would be lying if I were to try to deny the fact that I am intrigued by Ulysees Gilbert III, the second-year former sixth-round pick out of Akron. The speedy inside linebacker only spent the first half of the season on the 53-man roster before he suffered a season-ending injury, but he did his part in earning a helmet by becoming a fixture on special teams. He racked up 150 snaps in just seven games, all of them on special teams.
That level of workload almost guarantees a young player continued employment, and there’s no reason to believe that won’t be the case going forward. Not that he doesn’t have competition, including from Robert Spillane, the man who replaced him on the 53-man roster and would record 11 special teams tackles (Gilbert had five, nothing to sneeze at).
It could have a lot to do with whether or not the Steelers will re-sign Tyler Matakevich, who is regarded as their best special teams player, consistently ranking among the top in total special teams tackles around the league every year. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
But while Matakevich’s contributions would appear to have largely been capped at special teams, there is likely some belief within the organization that Gilbert could have a role on the defense, if a need were to arise. He has the athleticism that is sought after at inside linebacker in today’s game, which is why they drafted him in the first place, and he did show quality during the preseason.
You can include me among those who are very interested to watch Gilbert this offseason, especially if the team does release Mark Barron, because that would be the surest way to leave the door ajar for him to see defensive playing time as a sub-package coverage linebacker.