Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth 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 have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into 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 reasoning. 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. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: Ulysees Gilbert III
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: As probably the inside linebacker furthest down the depth chart, Ulysees Gilbert III is presumably most at risk of losing his roster spot to rookie seventh-round selection Mark Robinson.
Teams don’t draft players they don’t think have a chance of making the team. Now, the Steelers always seem to manage to draft at least one player who ultimately doesn’t make it, but that doesn’t mean they expected that outcome on draft day.
In other words, they drafted Mark Robinson because they believe that he can be a member of their 53-man roster this year. The neophyte Ole Miss inside linebacker is thrust into a crowded room, but as long as he can thump running backs and tear down the field on special teams, he has a chance.
The top trio at inside linebacker is Devin Bush, Myles Jack, and Robert Spillane, as you know. Behind them is Marcus Allen, second-year Buddy Johnson, and Gilbert. Johnson was a fourth-round pick last year, and they still seem to think that they have something in him.
Allen has more readily been entrusted with defensive playing time than has Gilbert, though the latter has arguably been the more successful special teams player over the course of their respective careers. Even before the Robinson selection, it was always quite possible they could be battling for one roster spot.
And so it’s possible that all three of them could be battling for one roster spot—or all four, including Johnson, are duking it out for two. It’s hard to see them carrying fewer than five inside linebackers, just given the numbers, as well as their history of doing so.
But, anticipating that Johnson is still on a bit of a scholarship, and judged by the fact that Allen has had more opportunities to play on defense and is also extensively worked on special teams, my feeling is that Gilbert is probably most vulnerable to losing his spot on the 53-man roster if the rookie Robinson ends up making the team instead.