Buy Or Sell: Lack Of Familiarity Fueled Early Struggles Defending Garrett Gilbert

The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.

That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).

The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.

Topic Statement: Lack of familiarity played a role in the Steelers’ early struggles in defending Garrett Gilbert in his first career start.

Explanation: The Cowboys started their fourth different quarterback of the season in 2020 yesterday in Garrett Gilbert, whom they only signed to the practice squad weeks ago, and who was making his first career start. Mike McCarthy did not decide on him as the starter (over Cooper Rush) until late in the practice week.


It is inevitable that a lack of information on a player is going to make it more difficult to defend that player. While Gilbert may have been in the league on and off since 2014, largely on practice squads, there wasn’t a lot of tape on him, and none with the Cowboys, who are an out-of-conference opponent running a new offense with a new quarterback.

Cameron Heyward in speaking to reporters yesterday admitted that the game plan in the first half was to feel him out, not doing too many things exotically and relying upon a four-man rush. That helped him make a few plays early and build up his confidence.

As the game wore on and they adjusted to his rhythms and tendencies, the defense started to make more plays against him, getting into his passing lanes and batting balls down, putting more pressure on him. And when the end-of-game situation arose, that’s when they blitzed and made him look uncomfortable.


The thing is, Gilbert has some talent. While he hasn’t played much, there is a reason that he has been around in the league for a long time, and one shouldn’t discount the success that he had with the Orlando Apollos, either. It’s like evaluating a talented player dominating in the FCS.

There were throws that Gilbert made that simply takes talent to make. He showed poise in the pocket, escaping sacks, scrambling, making plays with his legs. That wasn’t due to lack of familiarity. That was a journeyman finally getting an opportunity to take center stage and making plays. He couldn’t close it out, but he made a good run of it against a good defense.

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