The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: How much of a difference will the return of Marcus Gilbert make to the performance of the offense?
For the second year in a row, right tackle Marcus Gilbert has been sidelined for three games due to a lower body injury. Last year, the Steelers went 1-2 in the games that he missed. This year, the team went 1-2. That is not good.
Now, I’m not saying Gilbert’s absence is the reason that they lost. Last season, the first loss coincided with Ben Roethlisberger’s injury. He missed the following game and then struggled in his first game back.
Things have been a bit different this year, with him largely being healthy, but the offense as a whole has been struggling throughout the season. Chris Hubbard has not been terrible, though he has had his ugly moments, and I thought that the played better during his starting stint last year.
Gilbert says that he will be back out there on Sunday evening in Kansas City, however, and that he is fired up. Now, of course, Gilbert is better than Hubbard, that goes without saying. But unless the play at right tackle is truly terrible, how much of an impact does the position really make on a game?
Now, here’s one important thing to consider, however: the next game, specifically. The right tackle is going to be getting Justin Houston. And Gilbert handled Houston pretty well twice last season. As serviceable as Hubbard may have been, he has been made the fool of when he has gone up against true talents, like Akiem Hicks and Everson Griffen.
Of course, Gilbert has also gotten off to slow starts after returning from injuries as well. And ultimately the problems with the offense are not going to be solves by getting their starting right tackle back. But…it couldn’t hurt, right?