Tag Archives: Marcus Gilbert

Pittsburgh – A Team in Transition

Change with all sides has to happen over time, and there has been a gradual change in the personnel at the Steelers over the past few years. The challenge ahead this year for head coach, Mike Tomlin, will be getting back to having a winning season after a 12-4 record and a playoff loss to Denver in 2011 turned into an 8-8 season in 2012.

Defensively, the biggest loss was linebacker, James Harrison, who was released after salary-cap issues (and is now with the Bengals) but it was the offense that saw the biggest changes, with new back-ups behind quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, a new backfield, a much-changed receiving corps, and a new look on the offensive line.

The steady part of the Steelers offense is Roethlisberger; he is the main constant in the attack and, with a new supporting cast this year, fans betting on the NFL will be hoping that he (for once) can stay healthy this year and play all 16 regular season games, something that has happened only once in all his seasons as a starter.

His fitness is vital, especially with veteran backups, Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich, gone and replaced by another veteran, in Bruce Gradkowski and fourth-round draft pick, Landry Jones, who must be considered a work-in-progress. Jones went from a potential first-round pick to a fourth-rounder after a disappointing senior season; he certainly isn’t NFL ready – yet.

Pittsburgh has always been considered a team that can run the football but, last year, they couldn’t accomplish that, mainly due to injuries. This year, they certainly expect improvement to come in that department, as they have drafted Le’Veon Bell in the second round; he should quickly take over as the featured and starting back.

He’s a workhorse back with good size (6-1, 244); he’s durable, and can take tacklers a few yards; he’s also very powerful and relentless, a good acquisition for the Steelers’ style of running game that they like to play.

Bell should have solid support on the ground with Issac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer competing for the number two spot on the roster. As things stand, it looks as though Redman will get the nod. Bell is likely to see the field on 3rd down as long as he continues to improve his pass blocking & blitz pickup. Will Johnson returns at fullback and will be a good addition in a mainly blocking role.

Question marks must remain over the receiving corps though, especially as Heath Miller at tight-end, their leading receiver in 2012 (71 catches), is not yet slated to return after injury. With him missing, the receivers look like a weaker group, especially as Mike Wallace was also lost to the Dolphins.

So, what have the Steelers got in this department? Well, Emmanuel Sanders, who was a nice slot receiver last year is going to have to step-up and improve his numbers for a start.

Although he did well in 2012 (44 catches for 626 yards), he will have more pressure on him this year and will be expected to produce more; it remains to be seen if he can handle that situation. Antonio Brown needs to improve again after his form rather levelled off in 2012. After those two, the Steelers receivers are a mixture of draft picks and veterans and it remains to be seen who of those make the full roster for the season. Offense is one area where the Steelers are looking a little light, unless Sanders or Brown really engage overdrive this year.

The offensive line gets a very new look and protecting Roethlisberger will be all important; two starters are gone from the “new look” – guard, Willie Colon, and tackle, Max Starks, and it will be three-time Pro Bowl center, Maurkice Pouncey, who anchors the line.

Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams are being lined up as the tackles but there is still some doubt from NFL betting pundits over who will play left and who will play right. Guards, David DeCastro and Ramon Foster, complete the front five and it looks like the Steelers have a real belief in this line as a unit that could stay together for years – it certainly looks solid enough, providing a platform from which Roethlisberger has time and room to operate.

All in all, ‘transition’ is the right word to use about the Steelers offense – there are elements of stability there, Roethlisberger, for instance. However, much of the cast is new and it may take a while for it all to knit together.

This year, with an increased running game, we can see the Steelers getting back to their “ground and pound” style as the staple for whatever success may come their way, a return to their roots and some “blue-collar football”.

The importance of the Max Starks signing

Max Starks has been consistently one of the better Steelers offensive lineman over the past several years.  Yes, Starks is rehabbing a torn ACL injury but he is expected to be healthy shortly even though he was listed on the PUP. Consider this.  Starks has 8  years of experience and is still only 30 years old.  30 isn't "over the hill" for a left tackle.  Starks knows Ben Roethlisberger's playing style very well and that can't be overstated.  It's well documented that Ben likes to extend plays and having a LT that is proven and whom is trusted with protecting Big Be's blind can't be underestimated.

What if Mike Adams isn't ready to play week 1?  Starks is literally a huge security blanket for this team.  If you need proof of that, refer to last year.  Starks was able to relieve Jonathan Scott from his duties after a few poor weeks of play.  Starks will do the same this year if Mike Adams isn't ready.

Let's also consider leadership.  Ben is clearly the leader on offense but Max will be a close second.   With the loss of key longtime leaders (Farrior, Ward and Smith), it's important to sustain good leadership.  Having Max Starks back certainly helps out the offensive leadership.

Who will start week 1 at LT?

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Steelers vs Falcons – Things to Look For

The Atlanta Falcons will face the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.  This will be the Steelers third preseason game and you'll see the starters play the 1st half and the roster will begin to finalize for those on the "bubble".

Tonights game will be broadcasted by the NFL Network at 7:30 EDT. Also be sure to check out the Planet Steelers Forum and participate in our popular Game Day Chat during all games.

Here are a few players to pay special attention to during tonight's game:

Tony Hills - The tackle from the University of Texas in now a 4th year player and it's now or never for him.  Hills came into training camp in great shape and has played inspired during practice and the last 2 preseason games.  Hills can play tackle as displayed against the Philadelphia Eagles or guard.  Hills has been so impressive that he appears to be the front runner for the RG position. Tonight, Hills is starting at RG.

Antonio Brown - What else can you say about the youngster?  The guy has seized every opportunity in training camp and preseason.  He is continuing right where he left off last year but now he may be in the process of wrestling the 3rd wide receiver spot from Emmanual Sanders.  Sanders has been sidelined with a foot injury.

Cornerbacks - How will our cornerbacks Keenan Lewis, Crezdon Butler, William Gay, Donovan Warren, Bryant McFadden (questionable), and Cortez Allen (questionable) fair against the highly talented and explosive Atlanta Falcons offense.

Ramon Foster and Chris Scott - Will they allow Tony Hills to steal their spot at RG?  At the start of training camp, it was Foster's job to lose.  Apparently, he is starting to lose it.

Marcus Gilbert - The rookie LT from the University of Florida had a rough start to training camp reportedly showing up out of shape.  He has turned things around recently and is getting his first start due to Jonathan Scott's injury (hyperextended knee).  He will have a tough matchup against Atlanta's 4-time Pro Bowler, John Abraham.

Steelers Sign All Draft Picks Except Heyward and Brown

According to reports the Pittsburgh Steelers have signed all their draft picks with the exception of:

1st Round Pick: Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State University

3rd Round Pick: Curtis Brown, CB, University of Texas

The following other draft picks have already been signed:

Marcus Gilbert, Tackle, University of Florida

Cortez Allen, CB, The Citadel

and Chris Carter, Keith Williams and Baron Batch.

RT Colon May Sign with Bears

According to reports, Willie Colon is being targeted by the Chicago Bears.  ESPN.com reports:

The Bears have made contact with Steelers tackle Willie Colon about the possibility of making a deal, according to an NFL source. But it's believed that Colon is actually more of a contingency plan for if the Bears are unable to land Saints tackle Jermon Bushrod.

Also, there has been rumors that the Buffalo Bills are interested in Willie Colon.  Before Colon suffered a season ending Achilles inury, many "insiders" considered Willie Colon as a top 5 right tackle.  Most Steeler fans would disagree.  Willie Colon has been notorious for offsides penalties and has almost gotten his buddy, Big Ben killed by opposing linebackers on several occasions.  With that being said, Colon is still a priority for the Steelers front office. With the Steelers 10+ million over the cap and Colon's price rising, the Steelers may need Florida Gator rookie, Marcus Gilbert to step into the starting role earlier than expected.

Only time will tell but the Pittsburgh Steelers tackle situation is getting worrisome.  There are rumors that Max Starks is cut due to weight and injury issues, Jonathan Scott is unsigned, Flozell Adams is unsigned, and Willie Colon may be Chicago bound.

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