The Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting lineup, across the board, is rather impressive. Sure, there are question marks, like Ben Roethlisberger’s health, but on paper it would be considered an extremely solid roster heading into 2020.
The issue with the Steelers’ roster goes beyond the starters, and bleeds into depth. One of the positions where depth is a glaring weakness would be at the inside linebacker position. With the team releasing Mark Barron to help free needed salary cap space, it left a hole at the depth at the linebacker position.
It is assumed both Devin Bush and Vince Williams will be the starting ILB duo when Week 1 rolls around in 2020, but what about behind them?
Behind them would be none other than Ulysees Gilbert III and Robert Spillane.
Not only are these two reserves extremely green, in terms of experience, but Gilbert is coming off a season-ending back injury. When healthy, Gilbert, who ran a 4.4 40-yard dash during the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, standing alongside Devin Bush, who also ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at the same combine, would make up one of the most dynamic, and athletic, ILB duos in the NFL.
But is Gilbert ready for this role, and is he healthy? He was on the road to recovery, even staying in Pittsburgh to remain close to the Steelers’ medical team, and then the coronavirus took its grip on the nation. Then it all came to a grinding halt.
“I felt like I was getting in my groove, getting way more comfortable when the injury occurred,” Gilbert told Tersa Varley of Steelers.com. “It was pretty tough. For this to be the first time you are so close to your dream, to be able to play and have it taken away by injury, it really does suck. It’s kind of like a mental thing. It messes you up a little bit. You are playing one day and then the next day you wake up and it’s all gone. Plus, it was the first time I have been away from football for that long.
“It’s tough because you are in it for so long and it’s so fast all of the time. Then you aren’t in it anymore. But the Steelers, the players and the coaches, do such a great job of making you still feel at home. Every time I came in the locker room during the season everybody checked up on me, saw how I was doing, how my back was feeling. That shows how special the Steelers organization is and how genuine the players are. They never turned their back on me or didn’t check up on me. They would text me to check up on me. Other guys who were injured, we kept in touch. You feel alone in the sense of not playing and traveling, but at the same time it’s a brotherhood here so you don’t feel that as much.
“The injury did come at a weird time. Sometimes I think God takes things away to show you the blessings that you have. At the end of the day he took it away at that time. I have no doubt in him and myself that I am going to make strides to be even better.”
Timing played a role in Gilbert’s injury/rehabilitation in many ways. Especially in recent months when he has been forced to try and rehab his injury at home, rather than with the medical personnel with the Steelers.
“They are sending me workouts to do, running programs and stuff to do in the house with body weights I do have,” said Gilbert. “I also have some weights and resistance bands. We are still on top of it. Every day I am doing something new. I am trying to get back right so whenever this thing does take a turn for the better, we can get back to work.
“The good thing is I am coming along very well. I was back here for a while and everything was normal. We were making great strides to get me back right. I hated that we had to stop and not be in the training room, or weight room or facility, but we are still making great strides at home. I am working out, eating right. I am doing the things they have sent me to do. We are still making strides, I am feeling good, and I am happy about that.”
There is good news for Gilbert, and any other Steelers who are still in the rehabilitation process. Tuesday, May 19th, NFL facilities which reside in areas which have started to re-open will be permitted to re-open. Not to coaches and players, but to specific personnel. Some of those personnel would be medical staff, and players who are receiving treatment will be permitted in the facility to undergo therapies.
In other words, there is a good chance Gilbert will be back in the facility getting himself right for the 2020 season, and when it comes to the depth at ILB, his health is critical as it pertains to the depth of the position.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they continue to press through the offseason and prepare for the 2020 regular season.