Gilbert vs. Abdullah: Tomlin wise to keep mum over right tackle position

USA TODAY Sports

Mike Tomlin won't announce his starting right tackle, even if Marcus Gilbert is declaring himself able to play Sunday against Oakland. With Abdullah waiting in the wings, maybe downplaying the decision is the right move.

Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert says he's fine.

Outside of that, his opinion won't matter much. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will make the decision over whether Gilbert will get his seventh straight start at right tackle, or elect to use the man he called "Abdullah," Guy Whimper.

Abdullah the Butcher, a professional wrestler since the 1970s and 2011 WWE Hall of Fame inductee, is known for ultra-violence and unpredictability. According to Steelers left guard Ramon Foster, Tomlin gave Whimper the nickname in an effort to move his image past an unfortunate last name for a football player.

Abdullah held his own - unpredictably - against Baltimore's vicious pass rush last weekend after Gilbert managed to play just seven snaps before being removed, allegedly due to a quadriceps injury that limited him in practice last week.

Gilbert says he's fine now. He couldn't finish the game last week, but three days after it, he's practicing fully.

Perhaps Abdullah was favored more against the Ravens, and any reason the Steelers could use to get him in the game, they were going to use. The combination of Whimper and Mike Adams backing up both Steelers' tackle positions puts a healthy amount of experience in the meeting room each week, and the Steelers are enjoying the problems that come with having healthy starters - something that hasn't happened often the last few years.

Considering how well the Steelers ran the ball against the league's ninth-ranked run defense (143 yards, the highest of the year by a huge margin), conventional thinking may be "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

On the other hand, it's fair to suggest a starting job shouldn't be removed due to an injury. If Gilbert was the unchallenged starter before he got hurt, he should have his job back, unless the coach wants to create the impression he had been starting the wrong player from the beginning.

That may not be an issue for Tomlin, and perhaps Gilbert simply is the better option to start. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley deferred the decision to his boss, speaking to the media Thursday, "We're seeing where Gilbert is health-wise. We'll talk that through as the week goes on."

Gilbert told Mike Prisuta he'll "be in there" Sunday. But Abdullah waits in the wings and Tomlin will ultimately make the decision.

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