For Ulysees Gilbert III, the 2021 season was a long time coming.
In his first two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gilbert III played a combined 11 games. During that time, Gilbert III made many of his contributions on special teams.
Week 1, against the Buffalo Bills last season, was a breakthrough of sorts. In one of the signature plays of the season, Gilbert III scooped a blocked punt, courtesy of safety Miles Killebrew, and took it into the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The sequence not only helped the Steelers pull off the upset win again the Bills, it also opened new opportunities for Gilbert III.
Though there would be no more signature plays for him last season, Gilbert III would go on to play a career high of 17 games and contribute 11 total tackles. Yet, the man whose physical abilities intrigued the Steelers enough to draft him in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, has yet to fulfil his full potential on defense.
Since that time, they added interior linebackers such as Joe Schobert last season and Myles Jack this offseason, relegating him to special teams. With the addition of Mark Robinson in this year's NFL Draft, the odds are stacked against Gilbert III for a backup role this season.
This year's training camp is setting up to be a competitive one at the linebacker position. The possibility should not be ignored that this could be his last chance to prove worthy of more snaps on defense. One thing is certain: Gilbert III has the type of talent that could help him breakthrough.