On The Steelers: Rookie Gilbert No. 1 at RT
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has no problem with brevity. He said all he needed to say to the media in 111/2 minutes Tuesday.
Marcus Gilbert moves from left tackle to right tackle.
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The Steelers will stick another finger in the leaking dike they call their offensive line Sunday, more like a thumb this time because, at 6 feet 6 and a listed 330 pounds, rookie Marcus Gilbert sticks out.
They first placed a call into another big man, Flozell Adams, but he wanted what their salary cap deemed too much money, so they will turn to their second-round draft choice instead.
Gilbert was drafted to -- they hoped -- become their starting left tackle in the future, and that is where he spent most of his time this summer. A torn triceps in the right arm of Willie Colon late in the 35-7 loss Sunday in Baltimore has forced their hand to try Gilbert on the right side.
He played right tackle for two seasons at Florida before he moved to left tackle in 2010. He could follow the path of Marvel Smith, the only other tackle the Steelers drafted in the top two rounds in the past 15 years. Smith, chosen in the second round in 2000, started as a rookie at right tackle before ultimately settling in as their starting left tackle.
"We like his pedigree," coach Mike Tomlin said. "He is a talented guy. He has showed the ability to play a variety of positions at Florida. He played both tackle positions and actually some guard at Florida. He has shown that he is not a fish out of water in those areas since he's been here in terms of being position flexible.
"There's not a lot of tape because there hasn't been a lot of opportunities for the young guy. But we do believe he is talented.
"He has done a nice job with the opportunities he has been given up to this point. It's enough for us to feel comfortable moving forward. We are giving him an opportunity here this weekend."
That offensive line did not play well last weekend in Baltimore, but no other lineup changes are planned this week.
Those seven turnovers did not all occur because the ball merely slipped out of someone's hands. It was an early snap by their only Pro Bowl player, center Maurkice Pouncey, that doomed them on the first play of the second half, a fumble that led to 29-7 after the second play.
Pouncey gave high recommendations to Steelers coaches and scouts on Gilbert, his former Gators linemate, before they drafted him in April. If he can play anywhere near what Pouncey has given them, he will be a keeper. They have not had many of those in an offensive line that has gone through several transitions since Marvel Smith was their starting left tackle.
They had it good back then when it was Smith, Alan Faneca, Jeff Hartings, Kendall Simmons and Max Starks across the front. The first three made Pro Bowls (and Faneca perhaps the Hall of Fame one day).
They have had just one steady starter since, Chris Kemoeatu at left guard. Pouncey was their third starting center in the past three seasons when he took over as a rookie. Doug Legursky is the third right guard to be named the regular starter over the past two seasons.
Through all the turnover, the Steelers reached the Super Bowl in two of the past three years. If they want to make it to another, that offensive line will have to improve, and if Gilbert can play well now and as their future left tackle, it will be a start.
- Who: Seahawks (0-1) at Steelers (0-1).
- When: 1 p.m.
- Where: Heinz Field.
- Looking ahead: WPGH.
Mike Tomlin showed Tuesday that you do not have to talk long to entertain. Tomlin snapped his record from last week for short, televised news conferences of 15 minutes by doing one that lasted only 111/2 Tuesday.
He did not say much, but he said it well. Here were a few gems:
• The 35-7 loss Sunday in Baltimore: "I think the people that know and compete in this league understand that there is a fine line between drinking wine and squashing grapes. Obviously, last weekend we were grape-squashers."
• On whether his team was "flat" Sunday: "We didn't perform well. We got beat. We got beat convincingly by a good football team. We will chew on that, however tough the meat is."
• On Troy Polamalu suggesting the Steelers had needed the dose of humility the Ravens gave them: "I sure hope we didn't need that. I hope we don't need too much more of that. I don't know if we could stand it if we did."
• On whether he spotted any good performances when he watched video of the game: "Daniel Sepulveda punted the ball well."
To replace Colon on the 53-man roster, the Steelers signed offensive tackle Jamon Meredith (6-5, 304). He was released by the New York Giants Sept. 3. He was drafted in the fifth round in 2009 by Green Bay from South Carolina and spent time with Buffalo, where he started four games in 2009 (Steelers line coach Sean Kugler was the Bills line coach then), and Detroit and the Giants on their 53-man rosters. ... Tomlin said that James Harrison, who left the game Sunday with what was described as a bruised knee, is OK and ready to go this week.
First Published September 14, 2011 12:00 am