Marcus Gilbert’s Up And Down Pass Protection Finished On A Down Note

By Matthew Marczi

While Marcus Gilbert has made it through a season without missing a game for the first time in his three-year career, he certainly did not exit the season unscathed—nor has any of the offensive line.

His performance has fluctuated from game to game. More so than the rest of the line, Gilbert is liable to have either a very good or poor game—particularly in pass protection—on any given day. There are games in which he didn’t relinquish a single pressure, but he’s also capable of giving up a half-dozen at the drop of a hat.

The season finale for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Cleveland Browns ended up somewhere in between the latter and the former, though Ben Roethlisberger was often able to neutralize the poor protection to at least make an effort at a play, if not actually succeeding in connecting with a receiver.

Gilbert spent much of the game going up against Paul Kruger. Such was the case on this early first quarter play. It may be difficult to make out, but in this instance, Gilbert’s hesitant, delayed punch allowed Kruger to get his inside arm around Gilbert’s outside shoulder, which allowed the pass rusher the leverage to get around the edge. Though Roethlisberger was able to escape and find Antonio Brown for a big play, it certainly wasn’t because of the efforts of Gilbert.

Gilbert finished off the quarter surrendering a sack to defensive end Billy Winn, though the story isn’t quite that simple. While he allow Winn to get to his inside, it certainly appears that Gilbert was anticipating inside help, probably from David DeCastro, as Gilbert was most preoccupied with protecting the outside edge.

As hinted at above, of course, not all pressures are created equal, and this late first half play is another example of that. Kruger was able to walk Gilbert back in the pocket some on a straightforward bull rush, but it was Roethlisberger fleeing the pocket that allowed Kruger to release and chase. Gilbert’s back is obviously turned to the quarterback, so it’s nearly impossible to anticipate and adjust in time in such situations.

The third quarter presented another play in which Roethlisberger nearly turned a disaster into a big play, as pretty much only DeCastro was able to hold his block on a four-man rush. Both tackles allowed the rushers to walk up the arc, forcing Roethlisberger to step up in the pocket, though he nearly hit Jerricho Cotchery for a touchdown pass.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • steeltown

    Gilbert had a decent season, but definitely fell below avg toward the end. If Adams makes any strides in 2014 it may be Gilberts last season in Pittsburgh

  • Rob H

    I’ve been saying for a while now that Adams has to be the RT next season, he’s already light years better in run blocking, and did okay in pass pro when he played there before. The other big difference is that Gilbert has already hit his ceiling, while Adams has yet to scratch the surface of his potential. I imagine Bell would do pretty well finding running lanes behind an Adams/DeCastro combo on that side.

  • Callentown

    I don’t think Gilbert OR Adams is able to hold down this spot. If the Steelers feel Beachem is a LT they can grow with, I see the steelers bringing in a RT via free agency. They just don’t have time to draft one and wait until he can play effectively.

  • treeher

    Gilbert – 6’6″, 330+ When is big too big? I recall in 2011 he was Steeler rookie of the year, filling in for Colon. I wonder if his up-down performance is a result of how he responds to injuries?

  • steeltown

    Starks was 6’8, 245lbs.. but I am curious about the size of the classic offensive tackle, look at Beachum with his athleticism and intelligence he has been able to play LT even though he is perceived as undersized.

    Funny though, a year later Adams was 2012 Steelers ROY after replacing Gilbert at RT….ironic

  • steeltown

    Agreed. Gilbert is under contract for one more year, he might be allowed to walk after 2014 if Adams makes any strides or Gilbert suffers an injury next season

  • Chad H

    To me in these video clips it looks like Gilbert is playing lazy. It looks like a complete lack of effort. We know he has the abilities because we have seen it. To all those that think Adams will do better when coaches watch the game tape like this and see lazy effort they will bring in the next guy to send a message. When the next guy up isn’t coming in that means his week of practice was not good and deserving a shot at playing time. The only message now to send these guys home for the year is that you may not come back to a job.

  • joed32

    That would be fun to watch if Adams can pick up his pass blocking.

  • treeher

    Just a typo, you meant 345 … I always thought he was too big as well.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Sorry, I just don’t agree. Adams played better last year at RT than Gilbert has this year. Adams has also been used as an extra TE out of necessity. Now that Spaeth has been brought back Adams is free to compete for the starting RT and if Gilbert continues his poor play, Adams should win it.
    They will not be spending any picks on the line this year IMO, and it is unlikely they hit FA for a RT when Adams is more than capable.

  • steeltown

    Yes, 345

  • WilliamSekinger

    Bell running behind Pouncey, Decastro, and Adams..oh the possibilities!

  • Jazz

    I’m not sure, could he better be suited to play Guard? He’s too slow to play RT/LT, he also needs to build up more muscle mass.

  • Jazz

    Key word, Intelligence.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Adams at RT is absolutely best. He did well there last year as he was a beast in the run game and reasonable against the pass in 2012. I expect improvements as people seem to be forgetting something:

    9 months ago, Adams got stabbed, and with some stomach muscles severed his core strength remained diminished. At the time people were wondering if he would make it back this past year. He did, but certainly had more important things to worry about, recovering of course. A huge setback. If he can work on his core, and his speed this off season, then the sky is the limit for him on the right side.

  • David Edward

    I have been generally critical of Gilbert because too often I see him not playing up to his abilities. Unlike Adams (or even Beachum), strength isn’t an issue with him. Too often I see Gilbert getting caught using poor technique or with “lazy feet”. The thing is, when they drafted him, they thought of him as LT capable. Remember in ’11, they had Colon at RT and were looking for a replacement for Starks at LT. During preseason, they realized Gilbert wasn’t as LT capable as they thought, and after Colon’s injury, he was pressed into starting duty at RT.

  • Virdin Barzey

    I agree when it comes to Beachum. With the pass rushers today, you have to be quick on your feet and Gilbert looks slow. The most disappointing part of Gilbert’s play is the lack of any type of physicality or nastiness.

    For a big guy he gets pushed and tossed around a lot. Its why either he gets injured or injure someone else. Has he played better this year? Yes, but him and Adams will always be the weakest link on this line.

  • steeltown

    I somewhat agree..the stabbing sure didnt help his overall physical health entering the season. We already know he needs to build strength to become a better pro player, getting stabbed and not being able to hit the weight room for a couple months didn’t help his cause

  • Chad H

    Maybe getting stabbed because you are in the wrong part of town early in the morning had something to do with it. I don’t think he is athletic and quick enough to play the position. We had a couple posts this season on Adams with video and the evidence doesn’t show much future or upside. We will see what happens next year. At least we are only talking one o line position than 2 or 3.

  • RMSteeler

    It is only with slight cynicism that I suggest both Gilbert and Adams make a New Year’s resolution to add MMA and dance classes to their off season training. MMA for quicker use of hands/punching and Cha-Cha, Flamenco, or Tap Dancing to improve balance and foot speed. It could be argued that both are already accomplished Ballroom and Tango dancers with a look at the tape, as it appears to be two dancing bears while in pass pro when engaging Defensive Linemen/Linebackers. Only, they both usually let the defensive players lead most of the time. And, it’s easier for the refs to call holding during slow dances….

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Watching those clips I see a guy who needs to be in the gym lifting some weights…he is getting pushed around too much. He needs to do Deadlifts and Squats because to me he looks weak in the legs.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Yeah, I’m with you but not by much. Adam is very good at run blocking but for every bit as good as he is in the run, it is every bit as bad in pass blocking. This is the dude that has to make some serious steps to being better.The days of hand holding is now over. I have no faith in Gilbert outside of being a backup. Its Adams job to lose…if he wants it. Not sure if he does.

  • Brendon Glad

    Well, he wasnt as bad as i thought he’d be, but surely the steelers can find somebody better. Or at least make sure he has a similar player behind him to make sure he stays focused and hungry.

  • Robert Alaniz

    Agreed. Adams back at R/T is a better fit than Gilbert. He will probably end up back there and it will be Gilbert trying to fit in somewhere.

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    In all fairness, I for one think we can improve on Beachum at lot too,. he has done a good job as a fill in but until we get a solid ot to play ot we will always be a little behind the curve at lot, we need a guy that can be trusted to protect the back side with out help from te and rb so often so they can be used in the offense more often. Hope we can get lucky in FA like we did at center or even try the draft again with the scouts doing a better job at doing their job, this is a good year for offensive tackles in the draft. For as well as he played , Beachum still gave up the most sacks, and a lot of hurries as well as penetration on runs to the left. I like Beachum but as a jack of all trades.