Over the next few weeks I will be writing a series analyzing the seven Steelers draft picks. Each article will focus on a player’s strengths, weaknesses, and fit with the organization. Every Steelers selection will also be rated based on position needs and available prospects.
Versatility was the theme of Pittsburgh’s 2011 NFL Draft, and second round pick Marcus Gilbert was no exception to the rule.
The 6’6″ 330 lbs. offensive lineman can play ether guard or tackle. He also protected both the weak side and strong side while starring at the University of Florida. Pittsburgh seemingly has developed a strategy to contract offensive lineman who can play virtually any position in the trenches.
In desperate need of a new offensive line, the Steelers could have selected a hogmolly in the first round. Instead, they waited until the 63rd pick overall. Gilbert, rated in the 10-12 range by most, was the 13th selected offensive lineman. In terms of value, the Steelers broke even. Talking strictly potential though, Pittsburgh may have found a steal.
Gilbert is strong enough to out battle his opponent in one-on-one contests. His footwork is incredibly swift for a lineman of his size and he has the talent of a first-round pick. Picking up a late linebacker is also a strength for the former Gator–an appreciated quality considering that Ben Roethlisberger has long been required to escape most delayed blitzers on his own.
There are weaknesses also.
Covering linebackers off the edge has proven problematic for the newest Steelers’ lineman. He will struggle with 3-4 defenses and linebackers are able to take advantage of his outside lane.
Gilbert’s run blocking leaves much to be desired as well. His poor balance contributes to his tendency of losing his man during rushes. The 22-year-old falls behind easily when pulling around the line, and has trouble blocking down field.
Perhaps the biggest reason why Gilbert slipped to the late second round was because of his inconsistency. Each game, and potentiallyeach year, is a different story for the lineman. Gilbert’s junior season with the Gators was impressive while his senior season lacked. A strong Senior Bowl performance helped his final draft rankings. Hopefully, a reunion with center and former teammate Maurkice Pouncey will return him to form.
The Steelers drafted a project with loads of potential but much room for improvement. Gilbert is a pass blocker first. He seals off the inside and maintains his block for long stretches. His problems, however, will take time to fix–luckily, they are fixable problems. Gilbert possess the raw talent necessary to become a future force.
Pittsburgh selection is the definition of boom or bust. Unfortunately, an already weak offensive line cannot afford a bust.