With the 63rd pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select Marcus Gilbert, a 6’6″, 330 lb. offensive tackle from Florida.
I like Marcus Gilbert, but I would have liked this pick much more in the 3rd or 4th round. Nevertheless, it’s good to see the Steelers addressing the offensive line early in this draft.
Gilbert has the single most important attribute for an offensive lineman; size. He’s absolutely huge. He also has another key quality that the Steelers look for in their offensive linemen; position flexibility. During his career at Florida, Gilbert started games at left tackle, right tackle, left guard, and right guard. He also has surprisingly good quickness and agility for a player his size. His arms are extremely long, which is a good quality for an offensive tackle, and he has good strength for the position.
Gilbert actually spent 5 years at Florida. He had to have elbow surgery in 2006, so he was redshirted. He became a regular contributor to the Gators team in 2007, though he didn’t become a starter until 2009. In 2009 he started at right tackle, then he moved to left tackle as a senior.
With all of these great qualities going for him, some of you are probably wondering why I’m not more excited about this pick. Well, the concern that I have about Gilbert is that he’s neither fish nor fowl.
Despite his good athleticism for his size, I don’t believe that he has the lateral quickness needed to play left tackle in the NFL. In college, he had a tendency to get beat by speed rushers. Moreover, he was also susceptible to the bull rush of stronger players. The opponents he’ll face in the NFL will be much faster and much stronger than anyone he’s seen in college. These shortcomings probably mean that he’ll be slotted as a right tackle.
Unfortunately, Gilbert was much better as a pass blocker than as a run blocker in college. Great pass blocking skills are more important for left tackles. To play right tackle in the NFL, you have to be a bulldozer who excels in run blocking. Gilbert really isn’t a road grader. So I don’t see him as an ideal right tackle either. That’s why I said that he’s neither fish nor fowl. He doesn’t have the ideal combination of skills to be a prototype at either tackle position.
I hate to use this term to describe such a big man, but at times he plays soft. He doesn’t have a strong punch in his blocks, and he’s more of a finesse blocker than a power blocker. Despite his adequate strength, he doesn’t play with aggression.
Fortunately, the Steelers have an excellent offensive line coach in Sean Kugler. Kugler is a great teacher, and he should be able to develop Gilbert into a better player than he currently is. Also, Gilbert will definitely be spending time with the Steelers’ strength coaches. He has a naturally large frame, but he can definitely get stronger by spending time in the weight room.
To this point, he’s relied on his size and athleticism, and that was enough to make him a good player in college. But to succeed at the next level, he’s going to have to be stronger, tougher, and play with better technique.
The bottom line is that Gilbert is a big, athletic kid who has a lot of upside. If he seizes the opportunity that is being presented to him, and dedicates himself to working hard, he definitely has the potential to make an impact on the Steelers’ offensive line.
Analysis of all 2011 Steelers Draft picks:
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