2011 NFL Draft: Grading Marcus Gilbert and the Pittsburgh Steelers
The second round continued to tick away with seemingly every cornerback the Steelers had targeted falling to a team many picks ahead of them. First it was Ras-I Dowling going first in the second round to the Patriots, immediately after him went Aaron Williams, a cornerback many thought would be the Steelers' first-round draft pick.
Then Marcus Gilchrist, and finally Brandon Harris were drafted. Then it finally came time for the Pittsburgh Steelers to draft. What remaining cornerback would they draft? Would it be DeMarcus Van Dyke, Shareece Wright or maybe Johnny Patrick?
Instead, the Steelers knew that they may be reaching for a cornerback with their second-round pick. Instead of the Steelers going after a cornerback, a position widely believed to be their biggest weakness last season, the Steelers instead looked to bolster their offensive line.
The Steelers took a Florida offensive lineman not named Pouncey; instead, they selected right tackle Marcus Gilbert. Many could say the Steelers reached for this pick; others could say the Steelers had just picked their guy. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said before the draft that he was a big fan of this year's class of offensive tackles; maybe it was because he had his eye on a certain tackle for two years now.
Gilbert started all 14 games of the 2009 season at right tackle, the same season that Maurkice Pouncey ended his collegiate career. The Steelers have had film on the Florida Gators offensive line, and surely got to know Marcus Gilbert. They probably saw more than enough of Gilbert while investigating Mike Pouncey as well.
Gilbert brings great value to the Steelers immediately. Gilbert has the ability to play offensive guard as well as tackle, and could end up starting the year playing next to Maurkice as a guard. That would make for great headlines that the Steelers may have missed Mike Pouncey, but still found a Gator to put at guard. Gilbert is your average tackle as far as size and speed are considered.
Gilbert’s best trait is pass protection. He is very strong against outside speed rushers and showed that he has the strength to drive the defensive line backward as well. Gilbert will have to work on run blocking if he does want to play guard for the Steelers, but could benefit from a year of watching Flozell Adams and could develop in to the Steelers' future right tackle.
The Steelers must have an "in" with the University of Florida's offensive line coach. Last season, the Steelers selected center Maurkice Pouncey, and starting left tackle Max Starks is also a Florida alum. Gilbert is another draft pick the Steelers will likely wait to get a return on, that is, if everyone on the offensive line stays healthy, which 2010 proved to be very difficult.
Overall, Gilbert will get a B from me. His value as a pass protecting offensive tackle is definitely there, and his willingness to play multiple positions on the line is going to be perfect in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers could use him sooner than later, but Gilbert needs time to work on his run blocking and finishing his blocks. The Steelers may be transitioning to a pass-first offense, but Steeler fans will continue to clamor for the run game. If Gilbert is out there when the Steelers do decide to run the ball, Gilbert could frustrate more than cause celebration.
Should the Steelers have gone for a cornerback instead?
Instead I think the Steelers had Gilbert on their mind all along. They had great success taking Maurkice Pouncey last year and Gilbert comes from the same system and coaching staff, so there is the chance he brings a similar upside with him to Pittsburgh.
The Steelers still picked another position that won't truly affect the team for another year, however. The first three rounds represent the best opportunity to find a starter-worthy talent. Although the Steelers have found great talent in the first two rounds with Gilbert and Cameron Heyward, they still have valuable starters ahead of the rookies on the depth chart.
Overall, the Steelers didn't reach for a cornerback and still got their guy. It is hard to argue with the Steelers brass when it comes to drafts, so I can't get down on the Steelers draft just yet.
By not reaching and sticking to their guns, the Steelers will receive a B+ for their decisions. They could have traded up for Harris, who went only three picks before them, but again the Steelers would have been reaching for a guy that wouldn't fit their system.
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