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: The Steelers added another inside linebacker to their depth chart yesterday with the selection of Texas A&M’s Buddy Johnson in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, a player who figures to have a virtual lock on a roster spot to start off.
Through the first two years of his career, the thing that Ulysees Gilbert III is best known for is the fact that he has experienced issues with his back, which have resulted in him spending time on the Reserve/Injured List not once, or even twice, but in fact three times during that span.
A sixth-round pick out of Akron in 2019, he actually showed a lot of promise during the preseason of his rookie year, and was doing well for himself as a core-four contributor on special teams. But back issues crept up on him in the middle of the year, and shelved him.
He didn’t need surgery, the Steelers trusting he could heal on his own and be back up to 100 percent. Even though he returned to full strength, Gilbert spent most of his time on the 53-man roster this past season as a healthy scratch.
That was after Robert Spillane, who was promoted to the 53-man roster in 2019 to take Gilbert’s place when he went on the Reserve/Injured List, was able to establish himself on special teams, and showed the coaching staff he could be their top backup linebacker.
Spillane would go on to start seven games last season, with Gilbert only starting to dress after Devin Bush went down. Multiple flare-ups of his back injury limited his ability to contribute, and he ultimately only dressed for four games.
With Bush coming back and Spillane and Vince Williams still present, plus former safety Marcus Allen now playing at linebacker, the addition of Buddy Johnson as a mid-round draft pick quickly makes the roster math complicated for Gilbert.
It starts with the assumption that the Steelers keep five inside linebackers. Which, in fairness, they typically do. Bush, Williams, Spillane, and Johnson all figure to be locks or as locked-in as you can be without being a lock. That leaves Gilbert competing with Allen (as well as Tegray Scales…and Miles Killebrew…and Jarvis Miller) for one more roster spot.