In terms of the ripple effect through Steelers Nation, this year's version of the move created a much bigger splash than last year's version of the move. But in Coach Mike Tomlin's first public assessment of the trade for Justin Gilbert on the eve of the 2016 season, he described it as being similar to the acquisition of Stephon Tuitt on the eve of the 2015 season.
"You can characterize (Gilbert's) acquisition by us the same way as Ross Cockrell's a year ago," said Tomlin during his news conference today at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. "We liked Ross coming out of Duke. He was a long cornerback with big-time coverage skills. He became available to us in the same time frame that Justin became available to us. We were able to infuse Ross into our environment and get him up to speed, and he's been a very productive player for us."
Cockrell in fact opens this season as a starting cornerback opposite Will Gay, and as they were preparing for the 2014 NFL Draft the Steelers saw Gilbert as an NFL starting-caliber cornerback in his own right.
"His pedigree speaks for itself," said Tomlin about Gilbert. "He's a guy we had a great deal of respect for when he came out for the draft, and anytime those young guys are potentially available to us, we're open to pursuing them, provided there is a need and an opportunity."
There is a need, for sure, what with Senquez Golson trying to come back from a Lisfranc injury sustained early in training camp and what with Artie Burns missing almost all of camp/preseason before being able to return to see his first professional snaps in the preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers.
The reasons why the eighth overall pick of a draft held just a couple of years ago might be available in exchange for a sixth-round pick in a draft that's still two years away range from poor play to blatant insubordination to a new coach wanting to cut ties with the previous regime's players, but Tomlin said none of that mattered to the Steelers.
"We don't care what happened in Cleveland, to be quite honest with you," said Tomlin. "We're not asking a bunch of questions in that regard. We simply acquired a young cornerback that another team didn't want or need, and we're putting him in our environment and starting the process of going to work on a day-to-day basis and see where that leads us. I know he's excited about being here. He had a good day of work (Monday), but we'll live it day-by-day and we'll see if his story can become a similar one to Ross Cockrell's, for example."
There weren't a lot of favorable references for Gilbert coming from anyone associated with the Browns, but Tomlin explained that the Steelers were only interested in hearing from the player himself.
"We didn't talk a lot to other people about what transpired over there, because, to be honest with you, you're not going to get a lot of straight answers," said Tomlin. "We talked to him once we acquired him and wanted to know from his perspective why he thought he was here. And that's probably the most important element of it – his perspective on what transpired and how he can move forward."
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"Bud Dupree has been placed on IR, and he's capable of being designated-to-return. He's got a muscular core injury that he's been battling over the course of the last several weeks. These things sometimes get better with time, and sometimes you can manage them. Sometimes they require a surgical repair of some kind. He's being evaluated in the next couple of days to determine what route we're going to take, but by putting him on IR, and potentially designated-to-return, we took the timetable off it and we just want to get him healthy. Hopefully, he'll be back in uniform for us in 2016 and be the core contributor to our efforts he's capable of being.
"This next group of guys have been dealing with injuries of some description and can be characterized as day-to-day. Rosie Nix (back), Dan McCullers (knee), Robert Golden (groin), Cody Wallace (knee), Marcus Gilbert (elbow), Cam Heyward (ankle), and Markus Wheaton (shoulder) all can be characterized as day-to-day. Many of these guys missed the last opportunity to play, but basically it was the nature of that opportunity. Had it been a regular season game, I imagine many of the people I mentioned would have been available to us in some form or fashion. These guys have started the process of working themselves toward availability this week. We have an extra day, and we we'll utilize that extra day. Hopefully that extra day is beneficial to us and to them individually. I feel optimistic about all of those guys, and I don't have any other information regarding their availability other than day-to-day.
"A new injury that could be included in that day-to-day is (Javon) Hargrave. He sustained a minor injury at practice yesterday and wasn't able to finish. He has been evaluated, and that evaluation told us it's day-to-day.
"(Senquez Golson) is still on the team, so we can characterize his availability as week-to-week. We'll continue to characterize it as that, and if something comes up where we have to make a decision (on that roster spot), we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. But we're optimistic about his ability to be available to us at some point."