Gilbert’s Release Ensures Steelers Are Preciously Thin At Corner

There was hope, albeit a thin one, that Justin Gilbert would serve as the answer to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ depth on the outside at corner. Now, the cornerback group is held together like the engine of your very first car. Some duct tape, zip ties, and a whole lot of hope.

The depth in the slot was thin enough. Senquez Golson perhaps the only option, assuming Sean Davis stays put, forcing the Steelers to rely on a guy who hasn’t played a single snap, preseason or otherwise, in two seasons. At this point, it’s hard to trust him.

Things are just as unpredictable on the outside. Starters are there and hey, that’s better than decent depth and no starters. But it’s still an uncomfortable place to be in a league where you need, minimum, four capable, guys. Right now, Pittsburgh has three and one of them is an aging William Gay. Beyond that, there’s the return of Al-Hajj Shabazz, and uh, pretty much nothing.

Keith Butler is better off throwing Mel Blount’s cowboy hat to try and cover receivers.

The Gilbert trade shouldn’t be viewed any differently now than it was at the time. It was low-risk, decent reward, that, like so many of these minimal investment picks in the secondary, promptly blew up in their face. But it blew up quicker than maybe any of us expected, I figured he’d at least make it to St. Vincent College, and it leaves the Steelers worse off.

For the moment. If there is an upside here, it’s perhaps the team realizing Gilbert has no future in Pittsburgh and are choosing to cut bait now. After all, the only thing worse than a bad trade is holding onto that bad trade for even longer.

Like your pipes under the sink, there are leaks springing up all over this Steelers’ defense. Tight end, running back, inside and outside corner spots. It’s not flooded, at corner, at least, but like any leak, it’s better to patch it up sooner than later. That’s going to require an investment at both spots, probably meaning two players, or a higher-than-expected pick of someone capable of wearing both hats.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • AMP4380

    Glad the Browns took him before we had a chance in 2014. If Gilbert really was their preferred choice in 2014, it makes this situation look even worse. Very happy that they “settled” for Shazier.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    man you should see the fanspeak draft i just got. pipe dream if there ever was one. although this time i went with peppers over riddick,

    134: R4P29 TE ADAM SHAHEEN ASHLAND (this dude plays with fire. a bigger, stronger, faster, jesse james.was on my first mock in round 5)
    214: R6P29 EDGE TREY HENDRICKSON FLORIDA ATLANTIC (the other one who stayed from my last mock)

  • Nathanael Dory

    Yeah Gilbert was their top choice. Really glad we took Shazier

  • capehouse

    So what I gathered from twitter last night is Gilbert’s guaranteed money was voided because the Browns suspended him at one point? That’d be great news. Losing a 6th rd pick for 11 snaps on defense isn’t great, but those late rd picks are about 50/50 chance of ever seeing the field anyway and we have another year before we give it up. That pretty much makes it equivillant to a 7th rd pick this year. Definitely makes the trade seem even more low risk than it initially did.

  • Steelers12

    i thought we were gonna double dip on pass rushers now it seems we might have to double dip on CBs as well, another reason we should draft a qb in the first 6 rounds.

  • Doug Sawyer

    pretty sure we could grab a db in the 3rd round or on the market who would easily replace…what ever he did for us?…with the return of Golson …I’m not really worried

  • mem359

    Hope that is true about the guaranteed money. Would explain why Gilbert is gone now.

    Otherwise, I’d need to hear the advantage of dropping him now versus late preseason. (Since they have dead money invested, hold onto the hope that the light bulb will turn on.)

  • george

    “with the return of Golson …I’m not really worried.” Really? He hasn’t made it past the 1st week of a training camp.

  • Steve Johnson

    What a huge mess! Although it appears the F/O took a step in the right direction last April, it appears they will have to draft two more CB’s this April. They would be STUPID to go into 2017 hoping Golson is going to be ready. Suddenly, that team has a lot of holes to fill on Defense and Offense.


  • John

    I know of Kelly. Potential he has…but…look him up. Who knows, he might fit right in.

  • Steve Johnson

    The Return of Golson? When has he played?

  • Bryan

    I would accept this draft, though I’m not too big on Peppers, but I would trust we could find a place for him. Really would love Redding and Chad Kelly at those spots

  • falconsaftey43

    I wouldn’t say there are a lot of holes. you need one starter at OLB. everywhere else you need depth. This is a team that just went to the AFCCG and will return all starters on offense, and likely all starters on defense depending on what happens with Harrison/Timmons.

  • Michael Conrad

    The list is good. I think they need a CB more then OLB in the first round . The draft is deep in OLB’s and don’t rule out two OLB’s and two CB’s plus and edge D linemen. I kind of like Ejuan Price of Pitt in a later round maybe fifth round. He is a James Harrison clone.

  • He was pretty much needed as a return guy anyway. I’m glad we got rid of him. He was just taking up space.

  • WeWantDaTruth

    Rookie CBs will need on the job training. Need one that can come in and make an immediate impact. Stephon Gilmore anyone? I know…we probably won’t have the $$ for him. Maybe if we cut bait with Ladarius Green we can afford an impact CB or OLB?

  • LucasY59

    5 million (and its not even that much of a savings with dead $) wont even get a starter let alone a impact CB or OLB

  • LucasY59

    I think the CBs are just as deep as the OLBs, so as long as the 1st rd is a top tier CB or OLB it will be a good pick,

    agree they could double up at both positions (need a starter / hopefully star OLB) so getting 2 helps the chances of that happening, and Depth is needed as well, so 2 picks wouldnt be a waste, and with the CBs I think they need another Outside guy as well as a Slot so taking two makes sense at that position makes sense as well

    Golson is supposed to be a contributor (but has failed to do so, so far) and also agree that Gay showed serious signs of decline last season

    have the exact same thought on Price

  • Michael James

    Agree on everything except the DE part. Heyward, Tuitt, Walton and Hargrave are more than capable. I would put WR up there.

  • LucasY59

    think you forgot to put *not in your comment (draft a QB) and I totally agree, doubling on the two highest needs and then the rest is depth, but unless they let landry go they dont really need depth at QB this yr (especially when it requires a draft pick 2 rds earlier than it should be to get a QB, 3rd rd pick = 5th rd QB talent)

  • Michael James

    Great mock, but man, scratch Kelly. He’s not a good QB and has serious off the field problems.

  • LucasY59

    did you have to punch yourself in the face when you didnt pick Elflein?

  • Douglas Andrews

    Antwon Blake is a Free Agent….

  • Steelers12

    Thanks for catching that

  • francesco

    Get Butler and follow up with Logan Ryan as your safety.

  • LucasY59

    I think Butler is a RFA and would be really expensive if he was available, I think the pats keep Ryan as well

  • johnhoien

    We need an FA .. Ben has more years left in him if he believes it’s worth it.. ie (not getting butt kicked on Defensive side of ball) we need a now impact player. DB .. As Tomlin says a proven comedity.. Now. We cannot miss with Edge rushers in this Draft.. Need 2 or 3 rounds 2 OLB and one inside linebacker.
    1st round Correy Davis, next two rounds EDGE.. 4 the round inside
    FA : CB one or two

  • Pack

    I had the same three rounds took a rb in the fourth

  • The Truth

    Losing draft picks, regardless of position, is never good(in my opinion). There have been some great 6th round and later picks in the NFL. Tom Brady, Antonio Brown, Terrell Davis, Roger Staubach, Deacon Jones, Johnny Unitas…to name a few of the greatest.

    Don’t worry though, the Steelers will strengthen the CB position by trading away another draft pick next year while sitting the newly acquired player on the bench the entire year : )

  • colingrant

    Well phrased, as the word “ensures” suggests the thinness was present WHILE he was on the roster and his release simply reinforces the obvious. He gave no indication of being a contributor last season or future ones based on lack of playing time so the Steelers are in no worse a predicament then they were during the season.

    I was skeptical of his availability, as the Browns are rebuilding and one would think a recent high draft choice would be a critical piece of the foundation. But teams with management turnover often have philosophical differences, allowing talent to slip through cracks, so I thought, maybe…..

    For those who see it as a failure. Once upon a time, the Steelers wouldn’t have made this move and would be railed for not taking a chance. They take a chance, and some are railing against taking a chance. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  • LucasY59

    Unless Takk McKinley or Sidney Jones are still available, I am really starting to think that trading out of the 1st could be a good idea,

    the top 3 teams picking in the draft are some of the most QB needy teams in the league, BUT using a top 3 pick is not going to give them good value in this yrs draft (the QB talent is barely 1st rd, but there are 3-4 QBs that could be picked in the 1st despite the lack of talen/ value) so if all 3 pass early (Clowns could still get one of the top guys with their 2nd 1st rdr at #12) there is a chance one of them is available at #30 (and because they passed early a team like Chicago could get desperate to move ahead of SanFran, to get the last top QB)

    I think moving 6 spots could get the Steelers extra picks in rd 3 (3rd pick #67 overall) and rd 5 (3rd pick again) (best scenario add 3rd and 4th and worst add 3rd and 6th) the Steelers can charge a high price and because QB is important they could get it (look at what teams have given for the chance to draft Jared Goff, RGIII, and Carson Wentz) the Broncos didnt give as much last yr, but the Seahawks didnt move out of the 1st either.

    with the extra picks I dont necessarily think they need extra players, so the trading would not be done, they could package the (4th, 5th or 6th, or the Steelers original picks and comp *which is tradeable this yr) and move their original 2nd rd pick as well (so they have 2 early 2nds a 3 early 3rd and the rest of their original picks all by moving back 6 spots)

    *plenty of you will think Im crazy or that I just made a sequel to the movie Draft day, but again with the depth of talent at the two positions of need (and the extra picks in the top 100) they could really help the team by making the trade (there have been other similar trades so this isnt a complete fantasy)

  • ryan72384

    Only logical thing to do here is ask Golson to get taller in the off-season and move him to the outside.

  • RickM

    I think team tendencies usually win out. They’ve had some success picking up inexpensive outside corners in free agency and on the waiver wire. I think they’ll go that route for 2017 back-ups. They’ll hold true to Rooney’s request for outside pressure and will take an OLB at 30, and a slot corner will follow in Round 2 or 3.

  • rdjmsr53

    Other teams seem to find away to sign top rated players. With the window getting smaller for the Steelers to win with Ben at QB it may be time to get a top rated player on the defensive side of the ball. Unfortunately I don’t think the Steelers defensive coaches are up to the task of making any player better.

  • LucasY59

    they need him at the slot more

  • Matt Manzo

    I’m starting to think the same thing. A trade up or down doesn’t seem as unlikely as before. And you make a good point that there aren’t too many hole to fill, so they could be targeting some guys.

  • francesco

    The Steelers have had no success drafting DB’s. You know what you’re getting in Ryan and Butler. I would definitely overpay if so and cut somewhere else.
    We can find a replacement for Timmons at a bargain. We can get rid of Mitchell.

  • francesco

    I would add ILB. Timmons is now too old. I would remove TE from list and add another OLB. I’m not sold on Dupree.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    no. i still think elflein would be a great pick. could be a backup center which we dont have right now. and insurance for when pouncey leaves. but i realize that another secondary weapon would be good as well.

  • LucasY59

    and this is who I think they could get with the trades

    1st rd #30 (trade to Bears for 2nd, 3rd and 5th* rd pick (*would be great if this could be a 4th, and would be no less than a 6th)

    2nd rd #4 (36th overall, from Chicago) TJ Watt (team gets a guy they might be targeting with the 1st rd pick anyway) I am not 100% sure on TJ yet, will see how he does at the combine, guys like Carl Lawson (and maybe Charles Harris? could be possibilities here?)
    could even end up with a Jabril Peppers or Haasan Reddick (whatever happens there is still a VERY good chance they still get a player they wanted (or were at least considering) at pick #30

    2nd rd #20 (52nd overall, from Browns) Jourdan Lewis (am thinking he will do well in the combine) and his draft stock will rise and put him out of reach for the Steelers original 2nd rd pick, think there is even a small chance he would be in consideration for the earlier pick, he can play the slot (but can also play outside if needed) is also able to make turnovers (and has play making ability to score when he does) Lawson is a possibility here as well, Tre White is another option so is Adoree Jackson, maybe Obi Melifonwu?

    2nd rd #30 (62nd overall, traded to Cleveland for pick #52)

    3rd rd #3 (67th overall, from Bears) Melifonwu would be a great add here (if he is available) he has size to be a sub package LB, but speed to be a good safety/cover guy, would make it so the Steelers could use Vince on running downs (or Timmons if he is re-signed) and then Obi on passing downs, almost fills two needs with one pick (depth at S and LB) the league is using a lot of Hybrid players now and he could be one of the really good ones, other options Tanoh Kpassagnon (DE that could line up outside in subpackage? another versatile player) Derek Rivers or Joe Mathis (if they havent taken a OLB yet) Maybe a TE like Jordan Leggett or Bucky Hodges? maybe a RB like Samaje Perine or D’onte Foreman or Curtis Samuel? Cam Sutton, Budda Baker could be good additions to the secondary also

    3rd rd #30 (94th overall) Joe Mathis (like him better than Watt right now, would be good guy to double up with) or Kevin King has really good size and could be the Outside guy they develop to pair with Burns (or Fabian Moreau & Rasul Douglas) also a chance that some of the guys I mentioned for the earlier 3rd rd pick could still be available *hard to project top 50, and around top 100 it starts being a guessing game, Joe Mixon (dont like his off field stuff, but could be the best RB in this draft to add behind Bell) Wayne Gallman could be a safer (but similar) option here instead of Mixon

    *really hard to project who will be still be available (and where) on Day 3 so these are total guesses

    4th rd #29 (133rd overall) Elijah Hood, Corey Clement, James Connor at RB or Jake Butt TE (value pick) Channing Stribling, Marquez White, Corn Elder, Howard Wilson, Dwayne Thomas, Damonte Kazee are CBs they could double up on

    5th rd #3 (148th overall, from Bears) Ejuan Price double up at OLB if they havent already, Adam Shaheen TE (if they havent taken on yet) or one of the DBs or RBs I mentioned with the prev pick

    5th rd #30 (174th overall, traded to Cleveland for pick #52)

    5th rd Comp #38 (180th overall) (*over the cap has a some pretty good comp projections, so that is what I am basing this off of) Josh Dobbs (ARII said they will probably take a QB…)

    6th rd #30 (211th overall) some WR maybe Switzer, think he improved his stock at the Senior bowl?

    7th rd #30 (248th overall) anyones guess (basically a UDFA they dont have to try and sign) one of the last few picks of the draft

  • LucasY59

    just checking since you said you would fight anyone who disagreed with you picking him on your last mock

  • Michael Mosgrove

    i still think mock #1 was a great one.

  • jsteeler

    Kelly was at Clemson. Acted a Ass after Deshaun was picked to play after Stoudt. (Yes, Son of the Steelers QB Cliff Stoudt) Dabo let him go and he landed at Miss. Can’t read defenses and will run after 1st covered read. You should all know who his uncle is. Jim Kelly.

  • jsteeler

    DE/ DT is a need in the 1st round.
    Mr Rooney said DL pressure is most important.
    1st rd DT/DE- Tuitt and Heyward has been injured for most of the year or season ending
    2nd rd OLB.
    3rd rd CB
    4th rd DE/OLB/ILB BPA
    5th rd S
    7th rd BPA: TE/RB/WR – Special teamer aim.

  • Michael James

    It is not a need, period. Heyward and Tuitt are our starters, Hargrave a very good #3 and Walton a good #4. If they draft another DE, he would probably not even see the field in his first season.

  • Steve Johnson

    Cockrell isn’t a #2 CB, there is a reason he was drafted in the 4th Rd, didn’t last long up there in Buffalo. I think they need another CB and two OLB’s as well.
    Rd1 – OLB
    Rd2 – CB
    Rd3 – RB
    Rd4 – TE
    Rd5 – OLB
    Rd6 – Safety
    Rd7 – Pickem