Steelers Starting Gilbert Signals Shift in Offensive Line Strategy

The Pittsburgh Steelers caught many in Steelers Nation by surprise when they opted to start 2nd round pick Marcus Gilbert in the place of recently injured right tackle Willie Colon.

After the Steelers offensive line got tossed around like rag dolls in the Debacle in Baltimore many, including yours truly, expected (hoped) the Steelers would opt for the Red Phone to either Flozell Adams or Max Starks. And that was before Colon’s injury was known.

Instead the Mike Tomlin has opted to take a calculated gamble that, if it pays off, will also amount to an important statement about the direction of the Steelers offensive line.

As noted in a piece I recently wrote for Behind the Steel Curtain, the Steelers have engaged in “situational offensive line building” since Mike Tomlin’s arrival. After serving as a source of stability for much of the last decade, the Steelers have fielded a series of patchwork of offensive lines.

Attempts to ensure stability through long term contracts have given way to waivers necessitated by injury and/or declining ability.

The decision to put their faith in their Marcus Gilbert represents a change in philosophy and an attempt to restore stability to the line. The Steelers are projecting Gilbert as their future left tackle, so the thinking is let him cut his teeth at right tackle until Colon returns, and then start the summer off in Latrobe by shifting a seasoned player to the left side.

Gilbert has to succeed at right tackle for the move to work. One must recall Bill Parcells answer to an inquiry about what a young player needs to develop. The answer was “to play.”

Watch Tower: The Steelers and Flozell Adams – Who Called Who?

When news of Colon’s injury broke Ed Bouchette reported that Flozell Adam’s agent had had contact with the Steelers, but that nothing was imminent.

Bouchette’s later reporting suggests that it was the Steelers who initiated the contact, and most Steelers fans assumed that salary demands and/or salary cap restrictions dictated the Steelers move. To put things into context, Bouchette worte:

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.

All of which made sense and no one gave it a second thought, not at least until Scott Brown of the Tribune-Review threw a curve ball.

Brown’s first story follows largely along the lines of Bouchette’s, as he wrote:

The Steelers spoke with Adams’ agent, Jordan Woy, on Monday, but it appears that money prevented talks from getting serious.

But in another story which is believed to have appeared later on the Tribune-Review’s “Steel Mill Blog” Scott reported some very different facts:

The Steelers discussed re-signing Flozell Adams or Max Starks Monday after they learned that Colon had been lost for the season. But they decided to go with Gilbert, the second-round pick out of Florida, and sign a free agent tackle for depth.

Money apparently had nothing to do with them saying thanks but no thanks later when an inquiry was made on Adams’ behalf. [Emphasis added]

The Steelers are fully committed to Gilbert, and he will get more than one game to prove himself at right tackle. [Scott then clarifies that if Gilbert cannot cut the mustard, the Steelers remain open to bringing in Adams or Starks, and money will not be an issue.]

Scott Brown obviously changed his story for a reason. He does not cite any sources directly or indirectly in his “Steel Mill Post” be he is obviously getting new, and very different information from somewhere, most likely inside the Steelers organization.

A Peek Behind the Scenes at the South Side

Steelers Nation is of course most concerned about who plays not how the stories break that reveal that information. Fair enough.

But this little incident provides the inquiring reader with a peek into what goes on behind the scenes at the South Side.

Bouchette and Brown both obviously talked with Flozell Adam’s agent, who let it be known that he’d talked to the Steelers. How much more he told them we’ll never know.

But if both men went into their conversations with the assumption that the Steelers had called Flozell, Jordan Woy did nothing to dissuade them. Ditto any assumptions about no deal being imminent.

Scott Brown did not stop there, however. He went digging for more facts, presumptively in an attempt to verify the story. And what he learned upon further review reversed just about all of the conventional assumptions underlying the story.

Kudos to you, Mr. Brown, you out hustled “The Dean” of the Pittsburgh press corps. yet again.

Thanks for visiting. To read more analysis of the media that cover the Steelers, click here to read more from Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower.

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