It's Gilbert's turn to step up

Marcus Gilbert arrived at the Steelers practice facility on Monday with no idea that his football life was about to change dramatically.

He knew that fellow tackle Willie Colon hurt his triceps muscle the day before against Baltimore, but he had no idea how bad it was.

He quickly got the news as Colon was scheduled to have surgery the next day, ending his season.

"I thought he was going to be fine," said Gilbert. "I worked out and came back into the locker room. The trainer came up to me and I asked about Willie, he said he is out for the whole year. It's your time now. When I got the news it was mind blowing.

"It's sad to hear it, but I have to do the best I can for the team. I know when somebody goes down you have to pick it up."

There will be no time for Gilbert to ease his way into things, as the rookie second-round pick will make his first NFL start against the Seahawks on Sunday at Heinz Field when he lines up at right tackle. And as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, the team won't simplify anything offensively because Gilbert is making his first start.

"No. He better catch up," said Roethlisberger. "We expect him to catch up and get on pace with us. I am fully confident and I think BA (Bruce Arians) and everyone is confident he is right there and ready to go. I told him Monday, you need to learn this offense and have the no-huddle down pat. We are going to do it and I am not slowing down for you. I have confidence he will be ready to go.

"I expect him to step up in a big way and grow up really quick."

The Steelers let go of tackles Max Starks and Flozell Adams before camp started, and while both remain unsigned they opted to give Gilbert a shot at right tackle, even though he was drafted for depth on the left side.

"We like where he is," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "He has performed well for us. He's a talented young guy. He doesn't have a great deal of experience but we are going to give him an opportunity to play and show what he's capable of.

"We like his pedigree. He is a talented guy. He has shown the ability to play a variety of positions at Florida. He played both tackle positions and actually some guard at Florida. He has shown that he is not a fish out of water in those areas since he's been here in terms of being position flexible. There's not a lot of tape because there hasn't been a lot of opportunities for the young guy. But we do believe he is talented. He has done a nice job with the opportunities he has been given up to this point. It's enough for us to feel comfortable moving forward."

Gilbert said he didn't lobby the coaches to play, it was strictly a decision they made.

"I didn't expect it because we have other great guys in the room that can play the position," said Gilbert. "Everybody is pretty versatile.  They called my number and I am ready."

Gilbert didn't have the luxury of an offseason with OTAs and mini-camp to prepare for this, but he feels like he has made big strides since the start of training camp.

"Day one was a struggle because we didn't have OTAs and a mini-camp, but as it progressed I got a handle," said Gilbert. "I got it down. I am really comfortable. I have gotten a lot of it down. The preseason got me settled in. I feel really comfortable."

If Gilbert needs any guidance to help him adjust, he doesn't have to look far. Center Maurkice Pouncey already got in Gilbert's ear after he arrived at camp not in playing shape and missed time with a hamstring injury, and he has continued to help guide him.

"I didn't get the big picture of it," said Gilbert of what Pouncey talked to him about. "You can't handle it like college. This is your only job. College you had to deal with school, football. It's your livelihood. People fight for their jobs every day, try to take your position. I have to handle it, take what he told me and carry on and get better.

"I study with him every night. I am basically living with him. Having him on my side helps me a lot."

And he will have plenty of other help. The offensive line is a tight-knit group and they are all ready and willing to get Gilbert ready for Sunday and offer him some good advice, including how to deal with the first home game of the season.

"You just have to focus," said guard Chris Kemoeatu. "Get hyped, but don't get caught up in the hype. That is the biggest thing, when some of the young guys step in there they get caught up in the hype."

Gilbert knows he will have those rookie jitters when he walks out of the tunnel at Heinz Field, and maybe a bit into the game. But he understands perfectly well that he can't let it get to him.

 "I dreamt about it every day, to go out there and get the opportunity play," said Gilbert. "This is the game I love. It's the only thing I want to do. I am very excited. Not too many people can say they started for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I am going to get the opportunity and run with it. I have to go out there and play like I know how to play. Finish every play. Not fail on any assignments. Help the team get a victory. Leading up to it, the preparation, I have stay in the playbook, watch a lot of film and know the opponent more than they know you. That is the big key.

"I can't look at myself as a rookie, I am a Pittsburgh Steeler, a guy who has to go out and play at a high standard like we always do."

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