After the Pittsburgh Steelers selected nine players in the 2021 NFL draft, they continued to adding to the roster with eight undrafted free agents. With many draft profiles focusing on those players towards the top and middle of the NFL draft, it is time to get to take a look at these other members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who will have just as much opportunity to make the roster in 2021 as those who were selected in the draft, despite the more difficult path.
Remember, some draft profiles for these players are quite harsh as they are looking at them as a draftable prospect. Taking a flyer on an UDFA is a completely different story as many times the potential the player shows is what lands them on an NFL offseason roster.
Next on the list is cornerback Mark Gilbert.
6’1” 175 lbs
There are actually three stories to Gilbert’s college career. His overall stats have him with 65 total tackles, 5.0 of which were for loss, seven interceptions and 17 passes defensed. Most of his statistics came in the 13 games of his sophomore season, which covered more than half of his 23 total games with the Blue Devils. During his sophomore season in 2017, Gilbert had 35 tackles with 3.0 being for loss, six interceptions, and 15 passes defensed. Unfortunately, Gilbert only made it two games into his junior year before suffering a hip injury which cost him the remainder of 2018 and all of the 2019 season. After a foot injury two games into 2020, Gilbert opted out of the season to prepare for the NFL.
Gilbert makes for a very intriguing UDFA as his early production in college shows he could have a great potential. But with all the injuries and surgeries complicating everything, he may no longer have the physical ability to play at the NFL level. If Gilbert makes it to training camp then the Steelers must have seen enough at rookie mini camp to think he could still overcome his injuries. If not, Gilbert could even be a casualty if the Steelers make another signing.
Current Steelers at the position:
- Joe Haden
- Cam Sutton
- Justin Layne
- James Pierre
- Tre Norwood
- Stephen Denmark
- Skakur Brown
- Mark Gilbert
- DeMarkus Acy
Here is a recent breakdown following the 2020 season from NFL.com:
Gilbert has played just four games and 226 snaps over the last three seasons due to major injuries to his hip and foot that have required surgery. It takes a trip back to 2017 tape to find the player that was a draftable playmaker with confidence and ball skills resulting in 21 passes defensed, including six interceptions. With a lack of desired build and an expanding history of durability concerns it is highly likely that Gilbert will have to prove himself through an undrafted free agent route.
Outstanding high school hooper with good feet.
Showed off potential over first two years at Duke.
Finished with six interceptions and 15 pass break-ups in stellar 2017 campaign.
Route-jumper driving into the passing lane.
Above-average physicality for his frame.
Stays phased to the route down the sideline.
Tracks the ball well and makes plays on downfield throws.
Will be a 24-year-old rookie.
Major durability issues.
Missed most or all of 2018, 2019 and 2020 with hip and foot surgeries.
Lean frame could use more strength and mass.
Lingering concerns over whether he can transition hips anymore.
Average long speed to play catch-up when trailing.
Appeared to lose confidence in brief 2020 season.
Here is another breakdown courtesy of si.com:
The former three-star recruit had his career taking off after a sophomore season that saw him earn first-team All-ACC honors with six interceptions. A dislocated hip, suffered the following year caused him to miss much of 2018, all of 2019 and he only played in two games before opting out in 2020. When on the field, Gilbert is an athletic cornerback who can match and mirror receivers in tight man coverage and carry verticals. His feet are quick and clean allowing him to stay on balance. Length and soft hands make him a playmaker with the ball in the air, as he can knock it incomplete or come down with interceptions. This aggressiveness causes him to get flagged for pass interference at times. Gilbert does not have much experience in zone coverage and can get pushed around at the line due to his light weight. If healthy, Gilbert could be a playmaking contributor for a defense and has the skill set to translate into a slot role. His best fit is a man coverage-centric defense. Because of his talent, he would be worth a late-round flier for a team that has done their homework on his health status.
Raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Three-star recruit according to 247Sports. Sociology major and pursuing a Documentary Studies certificate. Started 3 of 12 games played as a freshman. Started 13 games as a sophomore. Started two games before suffering a season-ending injury. Did not play in 2019 while recovering from injury. Played in two games as a senior in 2020. Uncle Sam Gilbert played defensive line at Pittsburgh and in the NFL. Cousin Darrelle Revis played cornerback at Pittsburgh and in the NFL. A standout basketball player in high school. Suffered a dislocated left hip (September, 2018) that required two surgeries and a lengthy rehabilitation.
Finally, here is on last breakdown of Gilbert from thedraftnetwork.com:
PROSPECT SUMMARY - MARK GILBERT
Duke cornerback Mark Gilbert’s career was off to such a promising start after a 2017 campaign where he logged 15 pass breakups and six interceptions en route to First-team All-ACC Honors. He was the leading vote-getter among cornerbacks in ACC balloting. He also received Duke’s Willis Aldridge Award as the Blue Devils’ top defensive back for 2017. His ball skills and coverage versatility were terrific that year and there was plenty of buzz about his potential in the NFL, especially considering his pedigree. His uncle, Sean Gilbert, was the No. 3 overall pick in 1992 by the Los Angeles Rams and went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL. His cousin is seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis. Following the 2017 season, Gilbert had troubling luck when it came to injuries and has only played in four games since. He played in two games in 2018 before suffering a season-ending hip injury. In 2019, he missed the entire season while recovering from a hip surgery that was performed in September 2018. He played in two games in 2020 before suffering a foot injury, then opting out of the season and declaring for the draft. Balancing the recent injury issues and lack of time on the field against what he displayed in 2017 makes him a challenging projection.
Ideal Role: Outside corner.
Scheme Fit: Any.
To finish off the breakdown of Mark Gilbert, no evaluation is complete without film:
(WARNING: Audio could contain explicit material)