If there’s one Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman that should be ecstatic that Mike Munchak was hired during the offseason, it’s likely tackle Marcus Gilbert.
While he’s nowhere close to being considered a bust since being drafted in the second-round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Steelers, Gilbert certainly hasn’t lived up to expectations just yet. As he enters his fourth season in the league, Munchak will be Gilbert’s third offensive line coach in as many years and by far his best.
2014 also just so happens to be a contract year for Gilbert, who has made 34 starts at right tackle since coming into the league and if Munchak can get the best out of him in his first season as the Steelers offensive line coach, the Florida product’s bank account stands to gain quite a bit as a result.
As a rookie in 2011, Gilbert was thrust into action as a starter when Willie Colon was lost for the year in the season opening loss to the Baltimore Ravens. After a rough three game start to his career that saw him give up four sacks, he only allowed five more over the course of the rest of his rookie season, including the playoffs.
In 2012, Gilbert’s second season in the league got off to a rough start as he was forced from the season-opener against the Denver Broncos with a leg injury. While he managed to return to action the following week, an ankle injury suffered early on in the Week 6 game against the Tennessee Titans wound up sidelining him for the remainder of the season. It should be noted, however, that during those 246 snaps that Gilbert played in 2012, he didn’t allow a sack in 143 pass blocking opportunities, according to Pro Football Focus.
While Gilbert did manage to start all 16 games at right tackle for the Steelers last season, his play was very uneven and it resulted in him giving up 11 sacks. How much of that backside was a result of poor coaching, we will never know, but a quad and ankle injury that resulted in him being listed on the Steelers injury report for seven games from Week 7 and on could have also played a part in his uneven play.
With Munchak now on board and Gilbert presumably back fully healthy again, there’s still a chance that the 26-year-old can be the Steelers starting right tackle beyond this coming season. We’ve seen solid play out of him before and now we just need to see it more consistently. If Munchak can’t get that out of him in 2014, Gilbert will only have himself to blame. Everything is lined up for him to have a career year and a new long-term contract next offseason from the Steelers as a result.