Steelers Live had quite the valuable guest host on board yesterday in former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Craig Wolfley. Wolfley has been a regular contributor there and on Steelers radio for many years, and has always provided excellent insight to all things offensive line.
While he has a tendency to skew positive, he had a lot of interesting things to say about Marcus Gilbert yesterday, seeing a player that’s very much coming into himself and possibly looking like the second-rounder the Steelers thought they drafted back in 2011.
Marcus Gilbert looks good. I was talking with Tunch [Ilkin] and we were going, “there’s something that looks different here”. He’s changed his stance. And I will say this: when in one-on-one pass rushes, when the opponent comes into the combat zone, two years ago he looked like he was never ready. Now he looks like he’s got his feet under him, he’s got a solid base.
We’re seeing, I think, the emergence of what they thought they had when they drafted him, what he could be, and he’s starting to really become that block of granite that you want. So hopefully he will continue in the growth pattern. He posted 16 starts last year. Yeah, now build on it. That’s awesome. That’s what you want. Get somebody out there who starts getting 16, 32, 48 starts. But the thing about it is Marcus Gilbert is on the rise.
Host Bob Labriola conceded that when it comes to evaluating the offensive line, Wolfley has him beaten squarely, but he seems on the mark when he described the current supposed ‘battle’ at right tackle against Mike Adams:
“It doesn’t seem to me that Marcus Gilbert is giving Mike Adams any opening to come through to make a challenge for his job. A lot of times, that’s the thing, when someone wins a starting job, I always think it’s partially lost before it can be won”.
Wolfley agreed, and noted that if there’s one thing that Gilbert needs to show, it’s toughness. While he did start every game a year ago, he missed a lot of time within those 16 games, and he’s battled multiple injuries throughout his three seasons.
He may not necessarily lack toughness, but he certainly needs to do a better job of staying healthy. Nevertheless, here was Wolfley’s take on Gilbert and his need to stay on the field, likening it to the training camp battle two seasons ago between Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen after William Gay left for Arizona:
What Marcus Gilbert has got to do is show that toughness. Can you be in there day in and day out. You don’t want to give your buddy an opportunity to move into that spot. You saw two years ago with Keenan Lewis. Keenan Lewis had the bad shoulder and didn’t take a day off. He knows Cortez Allen is breathing down his neck. No, I’m not taking the day off, I’m going to stay the man, you’re going to have to drag me off this field.
Unfortunately, the early days of training camp seem to lack that sense of urgency in the position battle that we saw for the starting cornerback spot two years ago, because according to many reports, the third-year Adams isn’t entirely holding up his end of the bargain.
He seems to have shown modest improvement in spurts from having worked with Mike Munchak during the offseason on his technique, and says that he is improving every day, but he is starting to put together a collection of bad tape. If he doesn’t start practicing more consistently, the battle will be lost before it’s even begun.
As previously mentioned, Wolfley tends to skew positive in his evaluations, but you can often read between the lines when it comes to his critiques, and he also saw that Adams was still lacking in technique:
Mike Adams: he’s still a work in progress. He’s got a ways to go. You can tell that he’s spent some good time with Mike Munchak. He’s starting to use his hands better, he’s starting to sit better, but he’s got to play with better knee bend. That would be the one thing I would say, and the other thing is, he has a tendency, as soon as guys start shaking, these hands widen. He’s got to keep his hands under control, and then be able to apply the punch when it comes, but let’s hope that Mike Adams can get ‘em going, because the kid has the ability. There’s no question in my mind, he’s got the ability. Now you’ve got to bring that out in him.
It’s still early in training camp, and the first preseason game is still more than a week away, so it can’t hurt to be a little optimistic. At the very least, the early returns of Marcus Gilbert’s fourth training camp have been positive.