Tomlin Open To Using Justin Gilbert Again To Help Limit Travis Kelce

The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday in the Divisional Round of the playoffs and that means they’ll be looking to once again limit their great tight end Travis Kelce in the passing game for a second time this season. During his Tuesday press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin talked about the challenges Kelce presents to the Steelers defense this weekend in addition to discussing how they might choose to defend him at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

“He’s a special guy,” Tomlin said of Kelce. “He’s a match-up issue. Too athletic for linebackers, too big and strong often times for secondary people. It’s probably going to require a combination of both. That and some zone coverages and so forth to work to minimize his impact on the game as always. It’s no different than our approach in October. October we utilized Justin Gilbert to cover him some on possession downs. We may do that again, we may not, we may add to it. It’s just acknowledging a guy of his talents is part of the preparation process in terms of putting together a game-plan.

So, does that mean we’ll see the Steelers play some dime sub packages against the Chiefs on Sunday like they did against them way back in Week 4? Tomlin was asked that question on Tuesday and sidestepped it.

“We did last time,” Tomlin said.

The Steelers managed to limit Kelce to just 5 receptions for 25 yards and a touchdown during the first meeting between the two teams with his longest reception going for 9 yards. While Steelers cornerback Justin Gilbert did indeed play in that earlier-season game against the Chiefs, he only played 8 total defensive snaps that included him mostly lining up against Kelce. Gilbert, by the way, has only played a total of three defensive snaps since that game.

Kelce enters Sunday’s game against the Steelers as the Chiefs leading pass catcher as he finished the regular season with 85 catches for 1,1125 yards and four touchdowns. Over half of Kelce’s receiving yardage has come after the catch as well and he finished the regular season with an average of 7.7 yards after the catch. In short, the Steelers defense must make sure that they get him down on the ground quickly much like they did the last time they faced him back in October.

During the regular season the Steelers defense allowed opposing tight ends to catch 83 total passes for 946 yards and 6 touchdowns. They haven’t, however, allowed a tight end to register 100 yards or more receiving in a single game this season and need to make sure Kelce doesn’t become the first to do so Sunday in Kansas City.

  • gdeuce

    how about using Gilbert on kickoffs, the Fitz/Coates combo is an absolute failure

  • Sam Clonch

    Makes you wonder why, if Justin is capable of covering tight ends, he hasn’t done it since? Have faced some other good ones since then (Gronk, Witten, Eifert).

  • Paddy

    Not worried about Kelce, it’s that little guy that worries me

  • Yikes!

    three words: defensive pass interference

  • Douglas Andrews


  • StrengthOfVictory

    I’m with you there. In my nightmare, I’m watching a complete special teams breakdown, and Hill is just blowing past a helpless Boswell (last man) on his way to the end zone. And then Tyreek catches a slant pass, Mitchell takes a bad angle, and the same thing happens.

    It’s all about containment and taking care of the football in KC. Do that, and I like the Steelers’ chances of coming away with a win.

  • SilverSteel

    Exactly. Would have been nice to use him circumstantially in previous games to get him gelling with the other guys – not to mention not letting him try the KR position.

  • nutty32

    This guy is the most annoying phony in the game. Would love to see Bud give this guy the Matt Moore treatment.

  • Steel Tippin

    Absolutely not, that would actually make sense.

  • Stephen

    Coverage teams are very scary

  • Sam Clonch

    Put kick offs out the back, punts out of bounds, and for Gods sake, if they kick in the endzone, take a friggen knee Fitz!!

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Travis Kelce is a cool individual, but I hope we Bobby Boucher that a$$!

  • Mason Dale

    Hopefully Gilbert has his Rudy moments and shuts down Kelce lol

  • francesco

    Gilbert should have seen some snaps against the Dolphins. But Tomlin is clueless.

  • Jaybird

    What do you think it is Sam ? Is he in the dog house? Hasn’t learned the Defense / not a smart player? The players in front of him are just better? Or something else?

  • NYCSteelCurtain

    Kelce will get his, he’s a fantastic player and has a great skillset. I’m not so worried about that because it seems like he just disappears in games sometimes. He either goes off or just doesn’t do much. Need Mitchell and Shazier to bump him up a bit.

    The 3 biggest keys to me are:

    1) Can we force 3rd and long? That means stopping the run and limiting the screen game. Need to tackle sound, stay disciplined in our gaps, and tackle for a loss. Can’t have it be 3rd and 3, 3rd and 2 and have Alex Smith carve us up with crossing routes and quick passes.

    2) Can we limit Tyreek Hill on ST. Can’t have this dude steal scores. He’s single handedly winning them big games.

    3) Limit the TOs. Can’t throw costly INTs or Fumble the ball away to their scrappy D.

  • Jaybird

    Rochambeau his butt.

  • Jaybird

    We have a DB named Gilbert? 🤔

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I think we need to limit Tyreek Hill all together. He can score from anywhere! I agree with everything stated tho!

  • Labrat0116

    I say put “Big Safety” Shazier on him one on one.

  • VaDave


  • VaDave

    Me too!

  • dany

    Sounds to me like the Cortez on Gronk thing all over again. It worked once, they wont do it again

  • Matt Manzo

    I’m guessing it’s one foot in the doghouse for something related to the playbook. Lack of knowledge, mistakes in practice?

  • falconsaftey43

    Yeah, I mean playoffs are the perfect time to play your backups. Especially at positions where you have young players starting that could benefit from more reps.

  • srdan

    Sheesh – for a clueless guy he sure had a good gameplan

  • srdan

    True but he needs the edge. And in my opinion bud and James are as good of a pair of edge setters as there are in the league.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    True as a runner, but he’s caught 6 receiving tds! He’s dangerous everywhere imo. Can’t let him catch in space and can’t let him run past the secondary.

  • francesco

    Gilbert is not old! The game was basically over after three quarters! Have Gilbert take some snaps. For me Cockrell is a joke.

  • Sdale

    Yep, it’s the screen game that concerns me most with this guy (outside of ST).

  • Sdale

    He’s definitely getting betting in coverage, but I don’t think he’s consistent enough to put him on Kelce.

  • Sdale

    Good analogy. Hopefully they’ll use Gilbert some…or have another equally successful plan for him.

  • Gautama Om

    Wrong. It is perfect time to play backups WHEN you have a huge lead.

    This Steelers team will go as far as how much the youngsters improve and thus help us. We know what we’ve got from the vets and I think it falls short of teams like the Patriots. Young blood needs to step up and the only way to do that is give them play time, especially when you know you’ve got a game wrapped up.

  • HAHAHA! but Tomlin is clueless right?

  • You do realize Gilbert didn’t dress for the game because he missed the entire week of practice with a shoulder injury right?

    No, no, no, you are right, Tomlin is clueless!

    I swear you can’t make this stuff up…

  • You don’t pull your DBs for backs ups in a playoff game. The team is doing everything they can to comeback, and that is CHUNK PLAYS.

    First of all, Gilbert has been hampered by a shoulder injury, and secondly, if you stick him in there and and he has a mental error it’s and instant TD for the other team.

  • I know Tomlin will call someone out from time to time, but he will rarely throw someone under the bus.

    He said earlier in the year, that he picked up the defense and was looking for more detail in his game. We know from his history in Cleveland, that he didn’t take meetings or film study seriously so maybe that’s what he was hinting at?

    Anyway, that’s what I’m going with. He don’t take the game prep seriously enough and landed him in the doghouse.

  • David S

    Gilbert was inactive for the Dolphins game.

  • Tomlin is one of eight pro coaches in NFL history to average 10 wins per year in his first 10 years. Others: Ditka, Dungy, Gibbs, Madden, McCarthy, Seifert & Shula

    Yea, he’s pretty clueless…

  • David S

    In order to receive playing time the player needs to be active. He wasn’t. Should Tomlin have kept a guy with 3 defensive snaps since wk 4 active in hopes of the game being a blowout so he could be giving the guy playing time in the 4th quarter?

  • Zarbor

    Croissant on kickoffs instead of Gilbert? Make no sense

  • Don

    Didn’t he mean Marcus? I don’t think he has the speed to match up with Kelce, though.

  • Don

    Madden and Shula with 14-game seasons. Pretty impressive.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    What is really going on with gilbert i mean hill is fast but didn’t Gilbert run a 4.3 at the combine why aren’t they giving him no helmet is beyond me and on sts on a regular basis

  • Croissant, lol you are a fool sir

  • Zarbor

    LOL…I agree.

  • francesco

    Wasn’t aware that Gilbert was inactive due to injured shoulder. With Tomlin it is hard to tell what the reasons are. For me this is another Boykin scenario.
    No matter what contribution a player makes if he didn’t start the year with the Steelers is considered by Tomlin as an outcast. Cockrell is horrible. Can’t tackle and can’t cover man to man and yet is playing every snap. Can I make sense of that? Not in this lifetime.

  • francesco

    For me you need to block Kelce at the line of scrimmage in the 5 allowable yards. This will throw the timing off for the quarterback.

  • JB Burgess

    Yes, because Kelce vs Timmons is a disaster waiting to happen. Butler had Timmons chasing wr’s again last week. Ignorant scheme.

  • Jake Caruso

    Gilbert is younger than Cockrell

  • Donte Williams

    Crockrell cant cover? now he doesnt play the ball well but in man to man coverage you have to stay with your man and when ball in the air get head around for possible pick/defense. yes Crockrell gets beat hear and there suspect tackler so you saying put Gilbert out there for him? there is a reason he is 4th 5th 6th on the depth chart and not to mention Shabazz got a helmet over him. lets see what happens this SUnday i like gilbert a little but there must be something else going on other then his health maybe he doesnt know the play book and not to mention he will be back next year with us our secondary is solidified this is not the time to make changes and let a player start over one that has been doing a nice job out there ala Crockrell

  • SilverSteel

    Yeah, I hate to say it but Tomlin and other coaches give fuel to the fire for naysayers. They are such brilliant coaches, but there are those few things they do that make you shake your head. (Time MGMT, Leaving veterans in too long, not playing certain players, Special teams personnel, recurring penalties)

    Those things seem to never get fixed and it sometimes actually looks like arrogance and/or stubbornness, rather than ineptitude and that is working against you when you are making a PO run. I hate the whole “fire Tomlin” thing when we lose, but I agree with his detractors that we could be a much better team if it were not for a half dozen bonehead things we do. If our ST were special, we would be unstoppable – even for the Patriots.

  • SilverSteel

    Oh, the Boykin debacle was just hard to watch – literally. Those are some of the “stubborn” things I see from Tomlin that drive me nuts. He would play Blake until he absolutely HAD to replace him.

  • Jakob

    Yeah but the couch coaches on these boards who often coach in hindsight are (in their minds) undefeated