The Pittsburgh Steelers had one of the best offensive lines of the 2010s, even though it didn’t start out that way. They built the nucleus of that line through the first three drafts of the decade, using first-round selections on All-Pros: Center Maurkice Pouncey in 2010 and guard David DeCastro in 2012.
Sandwiched in between was Marcus Gilbert, the tackle out of Florida, selected in the second round in 2011. While he never received the post-season adornments of the two men immediately to his left when he lined up at right tackle for the Steelers, he certainly was integral in the rebuild of that line.
After 10 seasons in the NFL, Gilbert announced his retirement today, ending an accomplished if not bittersweet career, the majority of which was spent in Pittsburgh, before he was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in 2019.
“After 10 seasons playing in the National Football League, I have decided to retire,” he wrote in a statement. “I would like to send a special thank you to the Rooney family, Coach Tomlin, Coach Kugler and Kevin Colbert for drafting me in 2011 and giving me the opportunity to live my dream and play for the Pittsburgh Steelers for eight years, cheered on by the support of the best fans in the National Football League”.
Thank you for all of the support over the years. I can’t wait to share my next chapter of life with you all. pic.twitter.com/JjCQ4xGwgE
— Marcus Gilbert (@MarcusGilbert88) April 26, 2021
Starting from the second game of his career on, following a season-ending injury to Willie Colon in the 2011 opener, Gilbert learned how to be a professional on the job. It took him a few seasons to really find his stride. But his period between 2014 and 2017 marked a period of Pro Bowl-level play for the big man.
Unfortunately, injuries would play a major theme throughout his career, particularly toward the end. He actually never played for the Cardinals, suffering a torn ACL in the offseason in 2019. He likely considered retirement then, but planned on returning in 2020 before the pandemic, choosing to opt out instead. So in actuality, the Steelers are the only team he’s ever played for, even if he’s appeared on the Arizona roster for the past two years.
Gilbert started 87 of 88 games played in Pittsburgh, but he would also lose many games to injury. In three of his eight seasons with the Steelers, he would play in fewer than half of all possible games, including just five in 2012, and again in 2018. He played seven games in 2017, four of his nine absences accounted for due to a performance-enhancing drugs suspension.
Now 33 years old, the former Steeler has the rest of his life to look forward to. The team always encourages its players to look beyond football, beginning with Chuck Noll’s ‘life’s work,’ on through Bill Cowher, and today through Tomlin. I have no doubt he will continue to achieve off the field as he did on it.