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2021 Stock Watch — ILB Ulysees Gilbert III — Stock Up

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: Ulysees Gilbert III

Stock Value: Up

Reasoning: After three stints on the Reserve/Injured List for a recurring back injury over the course of his first two seasons, third-year inside linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III appears on track to be fully healthy to contend for a roster spot come training camp.

It might not be much, but then again, it might be. Ulysees Gilbert is a young player who has a lot of talent, but little luck. Though he was a sixth-round pick out of Akron in 2019, he is a very athletic linebacker, and he impressed during his rookie season. Recurring back issues have limited his ability to contribute to date.

In an article for the team’s website, Dale Lolley recently noted that the third-year linebacker has been healthy this offseason, all through OTAs and minicamp, “a big first step for a player who no doubt saw his role affected last season by the lack of offseason programs and preseason in 2020”.

Gilbert made the 53-man roster as a rookie and contributed a lot on special teams for the first half of the season, but landed on the Reserve/Injured List for the second half. Many felt that he was likely to be the top backup linebacker entering the 2020 season. Instead he was actually often a healthy scratch (or presumed healthy, perhaps) until Devin Bush was injured.

Robert Spillane earned the opportunity, perhaps largely due to special teams, to dress as the top reserve. He took over when Bush was injured. Gilbert contributed in passing situations until he, again, when on the Reserve/Injured List with a back injury.

While he was able to return and play, it was a short-lived turn of events. Gilbert quickly found himself back on the list and on the shelf for the remainder of his sophomore season, and the team hasn’t made it much easier on him.

They didn’t retain Avery Williamson from last year, but the Steelers did draft Buddy Johnson in the fourth round, and signed Miles Killebrew in free agency, while retaining Spillane and Vince Williams. Bush, Spillane, Williams, and Johnson are all likely locks, or close to it.

That leaves Gilbert, Killebrew, Marcus Allen, and others competing for a fifth roster spot that might not even be there. But for him to even have a chance of making his way back to the 53-man roster, he has to be healthy. At least so far, he has been.

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