Following the news today that the Steelers reached a deal on an extension with Marcus Gilbert, both sides caught some flack. The team for signing the oft injured, and by many accounts “average”, right tackle. And the player for being just that.
While the deal wasn’t something that the front office should write home about, it was a good deal for both sides. Also, while Gilbert isn’t a great player on the offensive line, he is a very capable starter.
One thing that most critics are pointing to for assistance with their ridicule is the fact that Gilbert isn’t exactly the picture of health. No arguments here. Gilbert has been injured a lot during his career.
He’s missed 13 games over his three year career to be exact. If you were wondering that is 4.33 games missed every year. A lot, but not as much as you would think for how much it’s being pointed at today. It helps that Gilbert didn’t miss a single game last year. He also only missed two games in his rookie season. Two games across two years isn’t exactly injury prone. Where the number gets elevated is from the five-games-played season that came in between the two healthier ones.
Seeing as how Gilbert was, in fact, able to play a full season last year, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think he can do the same this year. Or in years beyond. If he’s able to stay mostly healthy for the entirety of his contract, then that’s already one argument that can be taken away from the naysayers.
The other thing that most of the critics are pointing to as a reason for not extending Gilbert is his less than stellar play. I also agree with this point a degree. If you were to say that Gilbert hasn’t proven himself as a player who could start for most teams in the NFL you would be right. But you would also be overlooking the fact that Gilbert has improved his game every season, and had a very impressive showing in camp this year.
Seeing as how Gilbert was a worthy starter last year, if he continues on his trend of improving every season, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that he could vault himself into the picture of being a top tier right tackle.
Gilbert has all of the athleticism to succeed as a very good player, but he has been lacking the technique and polish as a pass blocker to really elevate his game to the next level. With the addition of Mike Munchak as the offensive line coach those problems should be improved sooner rather than later. If Munchak can improve those problems then he should be in the top tier conversation sooner rather than later as well.
If that’s the case then this extension won’t be viewed as a mistake for much longer.