Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: ILB Ulysees Gilbert III
Stock Value: Up
There may not have been many players who more directly benefitted from free agency for the Steelers than Ulysees Gilbert III, the second-year inside linebacker who saw two players from his position leave in free agency or be released.
A late sixth-round pick a year ago, Gilbert did make the 53-man roster as the number five inside linebacker, both because of how he played on defense and because he showed that he could be a staple player on special teams.
Entering the 2020 offseason, right now he looks as though he is the top backup at the position. With Mark Barron having been released, and Tyler Matakevich leaving in free agency, the only other notable inside linebacker on the roster is Robert Spillane, who was on the practice squad until he was called up to replace Gilbert after being placed on injured reserve in the middle of the year.
With only six draft picks, it’s not a shoe-in that the Steelers do use one of them to draft the inside linebacker position. Personally, I think it would be more likely that they use a pick on and outside linebacker rather than an inside.
But Gilbert and Spillane are the only guys there behind Devin Bush and Vince Williams right now. Will that prove to be a mistake? Who knows? The Steelers drafted Gilbert because they thought he could play. He has nice range and fits the profile of what they’re looking for in the defense.
I think fans are excited about seeing more of him, but history has shown us that that is no strong indicator of whether or not that player will actually turn out to be a quality player. Such fan favorites quickly become pariahs once they get a chance to play and then fail.
It’s quite possible that Gilbert could be exposed if he were forced to play a larger role, for example if he would have to start if there were an injury. In particular, he is not very big, so he could be limited if teams want to run on them. But at least for now, he looks likely to be the top backup.