There are a lot of people who look at the Steelers recent trade with Cleveland, for cornerback Justin Gilbert, and are not that thrilled with it. That’s understandable, and that’s okay, because the former 8th pick overall in the 2014 NFL Draft doesn’t have a great track record of NFL success to this point. Actually, he doesn’t have a track record of success at all, just a history filled with late appearances and missed meetings, apparently born from a sketchy work ethic. He did however come from an environment that many Browns players have labeled as “Chaotic”. Evidently though, the Steelers coaching staff sees Gilbert as redeemable and worth the gamble because of the tools he brings with him. At the cost of just a 6th round draft pick in 2018, he is certainly worth that minimal investment.
While there are no claims being made that Justin Gilbert will evolve into a Hall of Fame type of player, simply because of his draft status, the Steelers have found success before when trading for another former top 10 draft pick with a questionable work ethic…. Jerome Bettis. In Pittsburgh, Bettis found a clean slate and a change of scenery that brought out the best in him, and just like in 1996, the Steelers have a solid locker room and a stable coaching staff to do the same with Justin Gilbert. It’s one thing to have the “want to” and lack the tools to back it up, like so many cornerbacks of the recent past, but with Gilbert, all the Steelers need to do is find the right buttons to push to reap the rewards of his elite skill set.
What the Steelers are getting with Gilbert is basically an unpolished rookie, which is how they need to treat him, due to his minimal playing time in Cleveland. They need to deprogram him and start over from scratch and build him to fit the mold of what a Steelers cornerback needs to be, which is aggressive and physical. Coming out in 2014, Gilbert had desirable size, speed and length for a shutdown corner, all he needs now, is to get more physical.
- 40 YARD DASH: 4.37 SEC
- BENCH PRESS: 20 REPS
- VERTICAL JUMP: 35.5 INCH
- BROAD JUMP: 126.0 INCH
- 3 CONE DRILL: 6.92 SEC
What Justin Gilbert is not facing in Pittsburgh, is the immediate pressure of coming in as the 8th overall draft pick and earning a starting role. Instead, all that is expected of him will be to provide depth at the position and to contribute in sub-packages. The transition from a “Chaotic” system in Cleveland, to a system where Keith Butler has simplified things to where his guys can just react and play fast, should help allow Gilbert to grow and progress towards his potential.
There is a lot to like with Justin Gilbert and Carnell Lake has to be excited about what he has to work with. There was only so much that Lake was going to get out of the Antwon Blake’s of the world, but guy’s like Artie Burns, Sean Davis, and now Justin Gilbert, with the size and the tools they possess, have given Carnell Lake toys he can really do something with. One day, people are going to look back on the Steelers trade for Justin Gilbert and think “It’s just another reason that Cleveland still sucks”.