When news hit of Marcus Gilbert’s 4-game suspension for using a substance on the Performance Enhancing Drug list, most assumed he would appeal the suspension in hopes of having it reduced in some way. But the appeal never took place.
Several readers here were wondering why, and with Gilbert finally back in the fold preparing for the Houston Texans in Week 16, he had a pretty solid reason for not appealing the suspension.
He didn’t want to miss the playoffs, if the appeal lingered, like that of Ezekiel Elliott.
“That was one game [Week 15 vs. New England] I was hoping to get back,” Gilbert told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It was something I couldn't play with. I didn't want to appeal anything because I didn't want to stretch it into the playoffs. I kind of was in a hard spot.”
It makes sense, in a way. While the team did just fine with Chris Hubbard at right tackle, Gilbert is an elite right tackle for a reason, and the team will be glad to have him back in the lineup as soon as possible.
While away, Gilbert spent time working out and preparing himself for the stretch run, including the playoffs. He posted this video on his verified Twitter account.
“I feel a lot leaner, a lot healthier,” Gilbert said after spending his suspension in Florida with a personal trainer and offensive line coach. “I'm just excited.”
It had to be difficult watching his teammates winning without him, but the thought of not being there for the Patriots loss last Sunday would be enough to haunt someone.
“It was tough at first, knowing you have to sit at home and watch your boys play without you,” Gilbert said. “I'm still proud of them and proud of the way guys like Chris Hubbard stepped up and played tremendously in my spot. We have a special group of guys.”
It likely won’t take Gilbert much time to get re-acclimated to the offensive line. After all, the majority of the front five have been there for years together.
“I've been playing with these guys the last seven years, and it's something where I've been playing this game all my life,” he said. “There's continuity that we've built. It's repetition, getting in there and studying film so there's no mystery. Just go out there and play football and be the player you know you are.
“You have to meet the challenge that's in front of you. Whether you miss two games, four games, the whole season, when you come back, they expect you to play at a high level, and that's what I expect to bring.”
While the Steelers are faced with some big injuries, mainly to Ryan Shazier and Antonio Brown, getting Gilbert back, and having Hubbard available along the offensive line, will only help the team from a run-game, and pass protection, standpoint these final two weeks, and beyond.