Now that the 2020 regular season 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 are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: ILB Ulysees Gilbert III
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: After spending about a month and a half on the Reserve/Injured List, and only shortly after returning to practice for the first time, Ulysees Gilbert III was activated to the 53-man roster in time to participate in the game against the Buffalo Bills last week, where he logged about a couple dozen snaps.
There was a time leading up to last Sunday’s game that we didn’t know if the Steelers would have more than just Avery Williamson and converted safety Marcus Allen at linebacker. They had a couple of linebackers on the practice squad, of course, and ended up elevating Tegray Scales for the game, but the point is, the quality depth was suddenly tremendously thin.
The opportunity to bring back Gilbert helped, even though he is far from an experienced player, and in fact he actually saw quite a bit of time during the early portions of the season as a healthy scratch. But now that he is back, there is a reasonable chance that he remains a part of things.
At least until Robert Spillane gets back in a couple of weeks, because then that would give the Steelers three linebackers, with Williamson and Vince Williams being the others, in addition to Marcus Allen, who logged more than 50 snaps in Buffalo.
Prior to the start of the season, there was a lot of optimism about Gilbert’s potential. A former sixth-round draft pick in 2019, he possesses rare athleticism for the position, and from at least what we were able to see in training camp and the preseason, he showed promise.
Some, including myself, believed that he had a real chance to carve out a defensive niche, but Spillane ended up serving as the top backup linebacker, with Allen dressing over Gilbert as well. That didn’t develop as many expected, but it still remains a possibility in the future.