Injuries thrust rookie Gilbert into starting role

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Maurkice Pouncey saw the crowd of reporters surrounding teammate and good friend Marcus Gilbert in the middle of the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room Wednesday and couldn’t resist an opportunity to put the rookie offensive tackle in his place.

“Who’s in there? Big Ben?” the Pro Bowl center said. “Looks like we’re going to have to deflate his head a little bit.”

Better Pouncey than the Seattle Seahawks.

Two weeks into his professional career, Gilbert finds himself the starting right tackle for the defending AFC champions after veteran Willie Colon was placed on injured reserve with a torn right triceps.

It’s not the way the second-round pick out of Florida wanted to get the job. Yet he understands the team’s decision to turn to him rather than pursue a free agent is a sign of the faith the coaching staff has in his ability.

“I guess they have a lot of trust in me for what I did in preseason,” Gilbert said, “and it carried over.”

Even after a rocky start to training camp.

Gilbert spent the lockout in Gainesville, Fla., working out with Pouncey. When the lockout abruptly ended, Gilbert wasn’t ready. He arrived at St. Vincent College in late July out of shape and needed a pep talk from Pouncey, who he played alongside at Florida in 2009.

Pouncey’s message was clear: It’s time to grow up.

“I told him it’s a lot different than college, you’re not getting pampered all the time,” Pouncey said. “You’ve got to go in here and be accountable for everything you do.”

It meant learning a whole new language and blocking scheme. It meant treating football as a job he could lose at any time. It meant paying attention in meetings and making better choices at the training table.

Gilbert has done enough to earn a shot. He knows it’s up to him whether he keeps it or not.

“You have to step in there and show you can do it,” Gilbert said. “That you’re capable of handling the situation.”

If he needs inspiration, he need only look at Pouncey, who beat out veteran Justin Hartwig for the starting center spot as a rookie last year and ended up in the Pro Bowl.

“As soon as (Pouncey) got his number called,” Gilbert said, “he took advantage of it.”

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Get Adobe Flash player
You Might Also Like
  • Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez, left, celebrates with goalkeeper Sergio Romero after scoring the decisive goal during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout to reach the World Cup final. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

    Argentina beats Dutch in shootout to reach World Cup final

  • Washington Redskins safety Tanard Jackson speaks during a media availability after an NFL football training camp practice at Redskins Park, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Tanard Jackson suspended indefinitely by NFL — again

  • Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) looks to pass in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Monday, April 14, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 114-93. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Wizards’ Otto Porter, Glen Rice Jr. hoping for big splash on small stage

  • Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) is surrounded by fans that rushed the field and security as he is escorted off the field following their 45-38 win over Oklahoma in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

    SNYDER: RG3 worth his weight in bronze to Baylor

  • Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado (13), celebrates his two-run homer with Adam Jones left, with Nick Markakis, at right, during the 11th inning of an interleague baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Monday, July 7, 2014, in Washington. The Orioles won 8-2, in 11 innings. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Accidental rivalry: Nats-Orioles doesn’t have much edge

  • Celebrities In The News
  • (Image from DeAngelo Williams' Facebook post)

    NFL star likely fooled by Marine impostor who accepted first-class plane ticket

  • ** FILE ** In this Oct. 1, 2013, file photo actor George Clooney attends the premiere of "Gravity" at the AMC Lincoln Square Theaters, in New York. George Clooney has chastised a British newspaper over an article claiming his fiancee's mother disapproves of the impending marriage for religious reasons. Clooney said that the claims about his future mother-in-law Baria Alamuddin were untrue and irresponsible. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

    Website apologizes for Clooney mother-in-law story

  • Kim Kardashian arrives at the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment 2014 Upfront at the Javits Center on Thursday, May 15, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

    Kim Kardashian visits Jersey shore