It wasn’t that long ago that Marcus Gilbert started a season about as poorly as you could. Through the first two games he was rated one of the worst offensive tackles in football and his future seemed to be in doubt.
Fast forward to week 14 of the 2015 NFL season and there was Gilbert getting beat for a sack in Cincinnati. If you thought to yourself, “Oh way to go Gilbert!” then you might not have realized that was his first sack given up all season. Kind of hard to believe huh? Under the tutelage of Mike Munchak, Gilbert’s game has flourished at right tackle.
Gilbert has grown so much under Munchak that several days later, he was still being hard on himself for giving up the sack Sunday.
This week, Gilbert faces his most important and most crucial test of the season. With the Steelers having little room for error, a win over the Denver Broncos is as close to “must-win” as it possibly could be and it won’t be easy of because the Broncos’ number one defense.
Denver leads the NFL in sacks and Gilbert will be faced with the challenge blocking Von Miller who has 10 sacks on the season and rookie linebacker Shane Ray who has three sacks. Gilbert is of course no stranger to playing great pass rushers – he does it every week – but knowing the position the Steelers are in with regard to the playoffs his play goes under the microscope even more.
While Alejandro Villanueva has improved each and every week since taking over for the injured Kelvin Beachum, the reality is that his match-up won’t be easy either. Villanueva will have to deal with DeMarcus Ware who has six and half sacks himself. The reality is that this means both men will need to do their jobs because should one struggle consistently then that means either more two tight end sets or that Heath Miller will have to stay in to block more often than Todd Haley would like him.
By all accounts, Gilbert can’t wait to get back on the field and redeem himself for that one sack given up a week ago. Sometimes the greatest way to get better is to have have a defeat or two now and then. The motivation for Gilbert is there now he needs to act on it and shut down Von Miller and company.