Marcus Gilbert, OT #77
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, FL
Experience: 2 years
When you think of the top rookies for the Steelers for the past few years, the last player you might think of is an offensive lineman. But that is exactly who was selected last season when the Steelers named tackle Marcus Gilbert as the team’s 2011 Rookie of the Year. Gilbert was drafted by the Steelers in the second round of the 2011 draft. While Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin hates to throw rookies into the fire, that’s exactly what happened with Gilbert––by the end of the season he had started 13 games. While that fact is impressive in itself, what really stood out was his emergence as the leading pass protector.
“I’m still young, and I’m trying to improve myself out there,” Gilbert said. “I’m trying to become one of the premier tackles in the league.”
Some have joked about his status as a pass protector, considering his father Jeffrey was in the United States Secret Service and protected a number of presidents. But helping a line decimated with injuries was a big reason the Steelers had the season they did, and he did so at a position he was not accustomed to––right tackle. He attributed this fact to the mentoring he got from fellow linemen Max Starks and Maurkice Pouncey, both Florida alums.
The Steelers’ line has constantly come under scrutiny, especially with the number of sacks Roethlisberger has had since coming into the league. Asked about it, the second-year player says they don’t listen to what others say and points out that good things are ahead for it.
“You can’t (listen to criticism). You just have to go out there and do your job,” Gilbert said. “We know what we have and you just go, focus and make things happen. Last year we were stronger than the year before and we are getting even better.”
Sunday night against the Denver Broncos, Gibert went out of the game with a knee injury and his absence was obvious. Rookie Mike Adams came in and needed help on coverage.
The initial diagnosis is a hyperextended left knee, but Gilbert says he should be fine. Following the game, Steeler coach Mike Tomlin said, “Hopefully it will be OK.” Tomlin more than likely will address the injury more during his weekly press conference Tuesday.
Gilbert’s goals this season are lofty, but he showed maturity beyond his years by talking about the team instead of focusing on the fact he wants to be a Pro Bowl player.
“We want to get that seventh Lombardi,” he said. “And we want to get a running back over 1,000 yards.”
Gilbert is also involved in the community and works with the NFL’s Play 60 challenge. Last spring, both he and Pouncey visited kids at McKeesport middle school to honor the fact they were keeping fit.
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Matt Pawlikowski is a veteran journalist covering all things Steelers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.