Skip to main content

Ready if called upon

Cornerback Justin Gilbert hasn't become a fixture on defense during his first season with the Steelers but he nonetheless feels as if he's found a home.

"Most definitely, I love it," Gilbert confirmed. "The guys in here, the coach, Coach (Mike) Tomlin, I've never been around a head coach like him, the way he interacts with the guys. He jokes and he's also about business. He knows how to separate and mix it up.

"From Mr. (Dan) Rooney on down, from the boss man down to the players, everyone's like family here. I feel like everybody's got each other's back."

Gilbert was acquired from Cleveland on Sept. 3 (in exchange for a 2018 sixth-round draft pick) with a reputation that suggested he'd be bringing accompanying off-the-field baggage.

The Steelers have seen none of that.

And Gilbert, a former eight-overall draft pick by the Browns in 2014, has been understanding of circumstances that resulted in his having played eight defensive snaps through the first 15 games.

He's not expecting his status to change in Sunday's regular-season finale against Cleveland, even though Tomlin has said there are "several guys that I will look hard at preserving and protecting" in a game that can't affect the Steelers' status as the AFC's No. 3 seed in the playoffs.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le'Veon Bell, wide receiver Antonio Brown and center Maurkice Pouncey were identified by Tomlin as "some of the guys" that will receive such consideration.

"Same thing as every week, I guess," said Gilbert,who has appeared in 11 games on special teams. "I know about Le'Veon and Ben and those guys not playing. As far as everybody else, I think we're just going to be playing it like it's a regular game."

Gilbert played his eight defensive snaps on Oct. 2 at Kansas City.

He's also returned three kickoffs for 69 yards.

Gilbert didn't play in the regular-season opener on Sept. 12 at Washington and was inactive on Oct. 9 against the New York Jets, on Nov. 6 at Baltimore and last Sunday against the Ravens.

But he's ready if called upon, Sunday and beyond.

"Most definitely," Gilbert said. "I make sure I come in early every day. Me and Coach Lake (defensive backs coach Carnell), we work one-on-one, watching film and going over the defense before we install it for the week to make sure I'm ready if I need to go in the game."

In the meantime, Gilbert is content to stay ready and continue feeling as if his feet are once again planted firmly on the ground.

"No doubt," he said. "I'm connecting well with the guys and it's great to be on a winning team again. It's just a good feeling."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.