Money talks, and when the Pittsburgh Steelers open up their check book and pay Maurkice Pouncey nearly $8 million a year for his services at center, don't think other linemen don't take notice.
One of those linemen is former college teammate, and now current Steelers linemate Marcus Gilbert. The former Florida Gator is entering his final year of his rookie contract, and he realizes that this season will truly dictate what kind of draw he will get in free agency, or staying with the Steelers.
"I love it here," Gilbert told Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "I wouldn't want to go anywhere else. My agent is working on that [a future contract]. I'm not worried about it. I'm just coming out here trying to get better, trying to become a complete player, trying to win a Super Bowl. I know the guys we have up front -- they drafted us there for a reason -- we're the group that can get us over the hump. It's time now. It's time for us to get going. Every guy has a chip on their shoulder."
Pouncey and Gilbert had one year separated, 2010, before joining up again in Pittsburgh. Gilbert has started since his rookie season when an injury to Willie Colon thrust him into the starting lineup at right tackle.
Gilbert answered the bell in terms of his rash of injuries early in his career by playing in every game last season, but his production was a question as the tackle has been bounced around from the left side to the right.
Nonetheless, Gilbert is seeing dollar signs as other free agent tackles, like former Baltimore Ravens tackle Michael Oher, drew big contracts in free agency this past offseason.
Gilbert has a lot to prove, not only to the organization, but to himself. "As you get older you realize your snaps are limited," "You only play the game for so long. I just want to maximize every chance I have to be here and show them what I'm worth. I don't want to miss any time. I don't want anyone to take my reps. That's the type of demeanor you have to have."
The tackle position is considered one of the big question marks on the Steelers' offensive line entering the 2014 season, but it will be up to Gilbert to prove that he is worthy of a contract from the Steelers. Gilbert won't draw the same type of money that Pouncey did last week, but as serviceable tackles are hard to find in the NFL, his contract would be a significant amount higher than the 810,000 thousand dollars he is bringing in currently.
The Steelers have some salary cap space to extend players before the seasons begins. Cortez Allen, Ben Roethlisberger and Jason Worilds are all in similar positions. Gilbert might have to wait in line for that pay day.