Steelers fill needs with Gilbert, Brown in NFL draft's second day
Marcus Gilbert, 76, of the Florida Gators celebrates with teammate Frankie Hammond, 85, after scoring a touchdown aganst the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Knoxville.
Curtis Brown of the Texas Longhorns prepares for a game against the UCF Knights on November 7, 2009 in Austin.
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The Steelers never came close to drafting the twin brother of center Maurkice Pouncey in the first round, so they did the next best thing by drafting one of his best friends in the second round -- and they got their cornerback from Texas on the third.
Addressing two desperate needs on the second day of the draft, the Steelers took tackle Marcus Gilbert of Florida in the second round and cornerback Curtis Brown of Texas in the third.
Gilbert, a strapping offensive tackle and former Pouncey twins linemate, is a 6-foot-6, 330-pound blocker who started the past two years for the Gators, 27 times at right and left tackle and three times at guard.
"He's a high energy player, he's athletic, he plays the game physical the way we like here, and we feel like he can play different positions for us," said Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler. "It's also an added bonus that he and Maurkice are best buds. There is chemistry there, and that chemistry is a big thing in the offensive line room."
Brown became their third-round pick after many predraft opinions pegged Longhorns cornerback Aaron Williams to go to the Steelers in the first round.
Surprisingly, new Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake said Brown was the more polished of the three Texas cornerback prospects in this draft.
"Probably the best cover corner coming out" of Texas, Lake said. "Aaron Williams was the first [Texas] corner taken. Aaron's bigger, but we thought he was more of a safety.
"We thought Curtis definitely is a cover corner who can play the nickel as well as the outside."
The Steelers added another cornerback to an undistinguished list that, at the moment, does not include their best, Ike Taylor, an unrestricted free agent who remains in limbo during the league work strife.
"If we can somehow find a way to get Ike back and get Curtis involved, it would only strengthen an already strong secondary," Lake said.
The Steelers have uncertainty at offensive tackle as well as cornerback. Two are coming off surgeries, another Florida product in Max Starks (neck) and Willie Colon (Achilles).
Flozell Adams is 36, and two other tackles besides Colon are free agents, Jonathan Scott and Trai Essex.
"There's uncertainty," Kugler acknowledged. "We just think we got a good football player that adds to the room. We have a player that we feel is not just locked into one position, and we feel that is important.
"We have a guy that plays with energy and passion, and that is most important."
The Steelers drafted Gilbert higher than any offensive tackle in the past 11 years, or since they drafted Marvel Smith in 2000.
Kugler praised Gilbert's versatility, saying he can play both guards and both tackles, although he will remain primarily a tackle. On which side, Kugler could not say.
Gilbert said he is thrilled to be reunited with Maurkice Pounce on the Steelers offensive line, one day after twin Mike Pouncey was taken 15th overall by the Miami Dolphins.
"Just to go to a team with a former Gator and a former offensive lineman that I played next to is a blessing," Gilbert said.
"I can learn a lot from him. He can teach me a lot, and I can follow his lead. He came in and did a heck of a job."
The protective instinct runs in the Gilbert family. His father, Jeff, served as a Secret Service agent for presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and during Barack Obama's campaign.
The Steelers were interested in drafting a cornerback in the second round, and it looked like the one they were interested in would fall to them, Miami's Brandon Harris. But then the Houston Texans popped into the No. 28 spot via trade and snapped up Harris. The Miami Dolphins also jumped in front of the Steelers at No. 30 and drafted running back Daniel Thomas of Kansas State, and the Steelers picked Gilbert at No. 31.
Their inability to draft a cornerback in the first two rounds could have left the Steelers dangerously thin there. Taylor, a longtime starter, is an unrestricted free agent, and none of their others have been consistently good enough.
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First Published April 30, 2011 12:00 am