Steelers RT Marcus Gilbert rides into 2014 season on hope provided by Michael Oher's contract

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Gilbert is in the final year of his rookie contract and will most likely hit free agency after this year. Considering the contract Michael Oher signed with the Titans this offseason, Gilbert simply needs to remain off the negative radar for him to strike it rich elsewhere.

The eternal optimist looked at the Steelers' 31-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4 last season and thought, "Hey, at least Marcus Gilbert didn't play too badly."

Sometimes it's easier to bury the lead right next to our heads under a foot of sand.

The story of that game was the disastrous performance of left tackle Mike Adams, who would cap off his fourth - and second-to-last - career start at left tackle by allowing a sack and forced fumble on the game's last meaningful play. The Steelers threatened to steal the game late from the nearly equally hapless Vikings. Minnesota moved Everson Griffin over off Adams' outside shoulder, a position from which Jared Allen had seized control of during the game and owned it much like the country in which the game was held owned most of the world three centuries ago.

Griffin busted through the unrefined protection scheme, forced the fumble and gave Adams plenty to ponder on his physical and metaphorical longest plane flight ever.

At some point, it's reasonable to conclude maybe Gilbert was that eternal optimist. Maybe he was the one thinking "I didn't do too badly out there," despite his team's 0-4 start leading his quarterback to conclude "right now, we're the worst team in the league."

Gilbert is your classic paradoxical player. Smack dab in the middle in terms of talent among his peers. He's the best of the bad NFL tackles. He's the worst of the best. Despite the Steelers' offensive line falling apart early, particularly against the Vikings, Gilbert was pretty not-bad.

He has his ups - moving downfield to help seal a key block in a touchdown run by then rookie Le'Veon Bell. He has his downs - the unbalanced gravitational loss that caused him to make contact with the knee of prized rookie David DeCastro in the preseason of 2012.

Gilbert has one more year to prove himself worthy of a long-term, high-dollar contract chock-full of guarantees.

As Blind Side subject Michael Oher signed a 4-year, $20 million deal ($9.3 million guaranteed) with the Tennessee Titans, a thick line was drawn between two sides of people rushing to celebrate or condemn the move. Oher, his family and perhaps even Nick Saban (the head coach at LSU at the time Oher was being recruited, who told Oher "if you don't end up being a top-15 pick, someone did you wrong. Oher was drafted 23rd overall, and even with that, hasn't lived up to promise) would naturally celebrate the move.

Add Ravens fans to the list of celebrators. Oher struggled quite a bit in 2013, having allowed eight sacks and 42 hurries on the season. He was one of just four tackles in the NFL who made 16 starts to earn a score in the negative double-digits from football evaluation site Pro Football Focus.

Quietly in the background, Gilbert celebrated. If a team like the Titans felt a solid pro like David Stewart (released in March after failing a physical) could be replaced, physically and financially, by a player of Oher's caliber, certainly, there's a market for Gilbert. His agent probably celebrated. His job was made so easy, he probably owes Oher's agent a beer or five.

This will make Steelers fans cringe, but Gilbert enters the 2014 season in a contract year, and will likely strike it rich outside Pittsburgh in 2015. Many will view this as a blessing, much like the Ravens, who actually get compensated for letting Oher walk (the size of his contract will factor favorably in the formula to determine compensatory picks after this season). These are the same Steelers fans who saw the fact Gilbert had to lay down on the field after completing the team's conditioning test before training camp last season as a reason to think he wasn't worthy of his position. He's never been, and never will be, forgiven for getting knocked into DeCastro's knee.

Those won't be the reason the Steelers probably won't bother to make Gilbert a contract offer. The four-year veteran can easily make the argument his services are worth at least what Oher's are. The Steelers have two tackles on the roster right now - Adams, who's undergoing an overhaul led by new offensive line coach Mike Munchak, and Kelvin Beachum, who rescued the opponent-dominated left edge from Week 6 on last year - who are on rookie deals through the 2015 season. The Steelers selected Wesley Johnson out of Vanderbilt in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. There's another free agency period as well as a draft before the Steelers kick off in 2015. Plenty of opportunities to find another tackle.

They'll likely watch Gilbert run, bound and leap into that long-term contract, embracing his new team in the same manner Oher did. In the meantime, the team has one more season of service coming from their former second round pick. And in order for him to dupe some dopey team into an Oher-level contract, he'll have to hold down his side of the line.

All that really means is he can do like he did in Week 4 - be Not Mike Adams - and he'll be fine.

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