On the Steelers: Roethlisberger gets new guardian in Gilbert
May 24, 2013 8:00 AM
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin watches organized team activities through his trademark aviator sunglasses Thursday at the team's South Side facilities.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
No book in the works yet, so no movie either, but The Blind Side remains under development in Pittsburgh. It will feature Marcus Gilbert or Mike Adams as Ben Roethlisberger's premier bodyguard.
Gilbert wants that role, which would come in the form of the Steelers' starting left offensive tackle. Max Starks is gone, and auditions have begun for the job he held the past six seasons.
"Obviously, the left side is more important, the quarterback has to have trust in you," Gilbert said.
That's where Gilbert said he has practiced the first week of spring drills, with Adams on the right. That could flip-flop at some point this spring because Mike Tomlin might want to look at each player at each position.
"One of the things that we learned through the trials of the 2012 season is that both of those young men are capable of playing both spots," Tomlin said last month. "We will use the spring and the summer to sort out where we play those two at."
Starks played every down at left tackle last season, but he signed as a free agent with San Diego this week after the Steelers made no attempt to re-sign him. He was their starting left tackle since 2008, moving over from right tackle when Marvel Smith was injured.
So Roethlisberger is about to get his third full-time starting left tackle and it looks more and more as if Gilbert will be that man. He said he is more comfortable on the left side, and right tackle seems to fit Adams' style better as a run-blocker.
"Right now, I feel really confident with what I have to bring on the left side in protecting Ben's blind side,'' said Gilbert. "I know he's highly confident in me, too."
Gilbert opened last season, his second, as the starting right tackle. An ankle injury, though, ended his season after five games. Adams took over until his season ended after six starts because of his own ankle injury.
Dr. Robert Anderson of Charlotte, N.C., fixed a torn tendon and reshaped a defect in his foot, Gilbert said.
"I have very high arches," Gilbert said. "The doctor changed the structure of my foot.''
Gilbert also changed shoes, wearing them a little higher on the ankle. He also wears an orthosis brace on his right foot for support, and is confident he won't have that problem again.
As a left tackle, he will face the best pass rushers the NFL has to offer. The Steelers have switched to a zone-blocking scheme, which Gilbert said he played in college at Florida. No matter what the scheme, the left tackle's primary job is to have Roethlisberger's back.
Gilbert has spent time studying some of the best blind-side pass rushers in the NFL on video. He also elicited pointers from one of the league's better left tackles, Duane Brown of the Houston Texans.
"I talked to him and I watch him all the time," Gilbert said after walking off the practice field Thursday. "They run an outside zone scheme and he's a hell of a pass blocker, a former tight end, he's quick as hell. He gave me a couple of pointers about getting out on the defensive end before he gets to you. I used it a lot out here and it [has] helped me out here a lot. I have to pick up on some of his concepts."
Gilbert is among four recent high draft picks who are projected to start on the offensive line this year. He was drafted in 2011 and Adams in 2012, both second-rounders. Right guard David DeCastro was chosen first in 2012 and Maurkice Pouncey enters his fourth season as the starting center after the Steelers drafted him first in 2010. Ramon Foster, an undrafted rookie in 2009, starts at left guard.
It's a relatively young group that represents an overhaul of the line, and one the Steelers hope can grow together and stick around for a while.
"For sure,'' Gilbert said. "I think that's what the coaches envision us having -- a highly drafted, athletic group of guys. I think the guys we have now, we're working toward good unity and everything will sort out itself."
Three more rookies sign
The Steelers came to terms on four-year contracts with three more rookie draft picks.
Wide receiver Markus Wheaton, the Steelers' third-round draft choice, became their highest pick under contract. The team also announced the signing of fifth-round choice Terry Hawthorne, a cornerback; and wide receiver Justin Brown, a sixth-round pick.
Wheaton is the only rookie not permitted to attend the team's spring practices because final exams at Oregon State are not until mid-June.
The Steelers now have five of their nine draft picks signed.
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published May 24, 2013 4:00 AM