The Pittsburgh Steelers have been waiting for a wide receiver to separate from the pack at the bottom of the depth chart and Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts, and David Gilreath did just that against the team that originally signed him as an undrafted free agent last year.
Sunday was the first game action for Gilreath of the preseason after he was forced to sit out the Steelers first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles with a minor foot problem. Wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery said just last week that he was looking forward to seeing Gilreath against the Colts and he certainly couldn\’t have been disappointed with what he saw as Gilreath hauled in 4 catches for 78 yards with 22 of the yards coming after the catch. All four of the catches that Gilreath made on the night came on 3rd downs and moved the chains.
Gilreath went undrafted last year out of Wisconsin, where he totaled only 67 catches for 1077 yards and 4 touchdowns in 50 games worth of action in a run heavy offense. Gilreath was known at Wisconsin more for his return abilities instead of his receiving abilities as his career 3,025 kickoff return yards and 135 returns remain Big Ten records. In addition, Gilreath holds the school record for kickoff return yards in a season (967) and in a game (189) and ranks third all-time in Wisconsin school history with 5,265 career all-purpose yards.
Gilreath made the Colts practice squad initially last year but he was released by them in late October. After a three week stopover on the practice squad of the St. Louis Rams last November, Gilreath ended the season with the Buffalo Bills on their practice squad.
The Minnesota born Gilreath got his night off to a great start by not quitting on a free play. After the Colts defense jumped offsides, Gilreath ran past Colts cornerback Cassius Vaughn, who appeared to hesitate once he saw the flags thrown. Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch hit Gilreath with a 35 yard pass down the right sideline and Gilreath added 6 more yards before Vaughn caught him.
The second big gainer for Gilreath on the night came on a 3rd and 16 from the Steelers 35 yard-line as quarterback Jerrod Johnson hit Gilreath across the middle for a 21 yard pass at the Colts 44 yard-line and the Wisconsin product added 3 more yards after the catch.
With 3 catches already under his belt late in the game, Gilreath showed great body control on what would end up being the Steelers game winning drive by hauling in a pass from Johnson that was both high and behind him on a 3rd down and 5 play from Steelers own 36 yard-line. Not only did Gilreath haul it in behind the line of scrimmage, but a nifty move after the catch allowed him to pick up 11 yards after the catch and a Steeler first down.
Gilreath added 1 kickoff return in the game that was good for 22 yards and totaled him out at an even 100 all-purpose yards on the night. His four receptions give him four times as many as receivers Toney Clemons and Tyler Beiler, two players that are perceived to be in the battle with Gilreath.
With two preseason games remaining, and Gilreath now back healthy, he certainly can be considered the leader out on the course right now for what could be a 5th wide receiver spot on the Steelers 53 man roster. Next up for the Steelers are the Buffalo Bills, another team that Gilreath can enact some revenge on.