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Despite injuries and suspensions, Marcus Gilbert is an elite right tackle in the NFL

While many fans were soured on Marcus Gilbert last season, they shouldn’t forget just how good he is when healthy and available.

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Jacksonville at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL season was tough on right tackle Marcus Gilbert. After a hamstring injury sidelined him for the early portions of the season, a 4-game suspension sidelined him for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy, Gilbert spent more time watching than he did play last season.

In his stead, Chris Hubbard stood tall and turned a very solid performance at right tackle into a big contract with the Cleveland Browns as an Unrestricted Free Agent. In fact, Hubbard’s stellar performance made many fans believe Gilbert could be viewed as expendable.

Let’s not fail to see the forest through the trees here though...

Gilbert is still one of the best right tackles in the NFL, and would easily considered elite when talking about right tackles in the game today.

In fact, Pro Football Focus points to one very impressive statistic from last season which should remind Steelers fans just what they have in Gilbert.

Regardless of how you feel about PFF, or how long Gilbert played, he is a tremendous two-way tackle. In other words, he excels at both run blocking as well as pass blocking, and there is a reason why the team’s red-zone production particularly rises when Gilbert is in the lineup.

Just focusing on pass blocking, the entire Steelers’ offensive line stood tall in 2017, not just Gilbert/Hubbard. Take a look at this statistic, per PFF.

27.5-percent is a tremendous number, and worthy of praise for the big men up front, but if you hear quotes from many of the linemen, they consider their 2017 performance as a step backwards.

The running game certainly could have been better, averaging 3.8 yards per carry as a team, and something Mike Munchak will have to focus on moving forward. Having Gilbert back, and hopefully healthy enough for a full season, will go a long way towards helping this offensive line go from “good enough” to “dominant” for the black-and-gold in 2018.