Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, 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 offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
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: Down
Reasoning: For obvious reasons, the 2020 season could have gone a lot better for second-year linebacker Ulysees Gilbert, who once again spent an extended period of time on the Reserve/Injured List with a increasingly concerning recurrent back injury.
When the Steelers drafted Ulysees Gilbert in the sixth round out of Akron in 2019, it elicited about as much excitement as one could reasonably expect under the circumstances. While first-round linebacker Devin Bush was obviously the headliner, many saw in Gilbert a potential future starter as well with his skill set.
One can’t help but wonder now if he will ever get the opportunity to show it. After spending half of his rookie season on the Reserve/Injured List with a back injury, he once again spent time on there with a back injury, and it’s natural to be concerned about this becoming a problem that could ultimately force him into an early retirement.
Is he just having bad luck, or will his body physically not allow him to hold up to the rigors of the NFL? That’s the question that even he perhaps will have to answer for himself. And assuming that he is able to consistently get on the field, well, then, he’s going to have to show that he can actually play.
In his defense, he has shown glimpses of that. He had a really promising preseason run in 2019 as a rookie, and then he turned in a strong performance as a special teamer in the first half of the year before the back injury reared its head.
Last season, he was passed over in favor of Robert Spillane as the top backup linebacker, and evidently due to special teams reasons, he actually spent a lot of time as a healthy scratch, with Marcus Allen dressing over him.
He did play situationally on defense after Bush was injured, but that only lasted a short period of time before he himself went down. Gilbert would briefly return before going back on the Reserve/Injured List a second time, and for good. So he’s been on reserve three times so far in his career…in two seasons.