Steelers Justin Gilbert Trade Reveals Kevin Colbert & Mike Tomlin’s Personnel Persistence

As Pittsburgh cut its 2016 roster to the NFL-mandated 53 man limit, and the Steelers Justin Gilbert trade offered some insight into the mentality of the Steelers brain trust:

  • Never let it be said that Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin don’t get what they want.
steelers justin gilbert trade, markus wheaton, justin gilbert, steelers browns 2014 opener, chuck noll day

Markus Wheaton schools Justin Gilbert in Steelers 2015 opener. Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire, USA TODAY Sports

Going into the 2014 NFL Draft, Steelers Nation knew one thing for certain: The Pittsburgh Steelers would target cornerback early and often thought the draft.

Commentators and bloggers alike rated cornerback a need position for the Steelers; likewise cornerback stood atop Steel Curtain Rising’s Steelers 2014 Draft Needs Matrix. And, if we’re to believe the reports, there was one cornerback the Steelers really wanted:

Of course, the Cleveland Browns took Gilbert with the 8th overall pick, long before the Steelers had a chance, so Pittsburgh opted against drafting for need, and picked Ryan Shazier. NFL General Managers don’t have the luxury of hitting a Rest Button and personnel “do overs” don’t really exist either.

  • However, sometimes second chances exist, and Kevin Colbert rarely passes those up.

Players such as William Gay and Larry Foote have departed for greener pastures, only to proverbially “Come home again.” And the Steelers also show little hesitation in bringing players to Pittsburgh whom they’d hoped to draft. As Neal Coolong of The Steelers Wire pointed out the The Steelers Wire, Ross Cockrell paid a pre draft visit to Pittsburgh with Ryan Shazier in 2014. The Steelers didn’t draft Ross Cockrell, but wasted little time in picking up on off waivers.

  • The Steelers, facing a quandary at cornerback addressed this weakness by trading for someone they couldn’t draft.

The move saw the Steelers trade a 2018 6th round pick to the Cleveland Browns for Justin Gilbert. If the reports are correct, Kevin Colbert was ready to invest a 15th overall pick in Gilbert. Instead he’s getting him for a sixth.

But there’s a reason why the Steelers Justin Gilbert trade happened so easily, of course….

Just two seasons after making him the 8th pick overall, the Cleveland Browns are ready to move on. Some of that has to do with yet another Cleveland Browns front office and coaching staff shake up in the interim. However, In two seasons Gilbert has only played 23 games and made 3 starts, and record just one interception.

  • Clearly you expect more from a 8th overall pick after two seasons.

In the Steelers 2014 opening day win over the Cleveland Browns, Ben Roethlisberger targeted Gilbert early and often, and then went back for more on the game-winning drive, hitting Markus Wheaton twice. Things, quite frankly, didn’t improve for Justin Gilbert’s following his opening day struggles in Pittsburgh.

As ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler recounts, there was no shortage of players in the Browns locker room who felt that Gilbert was worse than Johnny Manziel….

Steelers Justin Gilbert Trade a Wise Risk

Steelers Nation should not, however discard the viability of the Justin Gilbert reclamation project. Last fall, when a fan question the Steelers decision to pick up Ross Cockrell, Steelers Digest editor Bob Labrolia caution against skepticism:

Here’s a story Bill Nunn told me when I was trying to get him to teach me things: He said that with defensive backs, he always believed that you shouldn’t necessarily reject a guy based on what you see on film. And the reason you shouldn’t do that is because you don’t know what he’s being coached to do. If you don’t like that he’s playing off coverage, or that he opens his hips, or whatever, maybe that’s what his coach is telling him to do, and so you end up down-grading a prospect for the wrong reason. Nunn said you look for defensive backs with good measurables – height, weight, speed – who also are football players. If you have that, then YOUR coaches can teach them how THEY want them to play.

Justin Gilbert clearly has those measurbles, and it will be incumbent on Carnell Lake and Keith Butler to devleopt that talent.

In addition, maximizing the bang for your buck drives success in the age of the salary cap, and giving up a sixth round pick for 25 year old who had enough athletic talent to be the 8th overall pick in the draft qualifies as a good bargin. The Steelers Justin Gilbert trade represents a gamble for the franchise, but a wise one.

Welcome to Steelers Nation Justin Gilbert.

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