By: Kelechi Anozie
Versatility is one of those attributes that cannot be coached; it is either built within a player or it is simply not part of their makeup.
One of the many reasons why the Pittsburgh Steelers was intrigued by rookie linebacker Ulysses Gilbert III prior to this year's NFL Draft, was his ability to affect the game at different positions on the field. It is one thing to have the athleticism, it is an entirely different thing to have the ability to utilize effectively.
What fans saw with Gilbert III during their four preseason games, was his ability to make plays from different positions. For the Steelers, whose objective during the off-season was to find instinctive and athletic linebackers, they receive exactly that and more with Gilbert III.
Ulysees Gilbert At Middle Linebacker
During his collegiate career at Akron, Gilbert III recorded only 8.5 career sacks, yet his pass rushing abilities suggest something entirely different. One his noted strengths his speed, which was clocked between 4.46-4.50 seconds on his pro day back in March. His other attribute is his ability to maneuver inside small gaps and make plays in the backfield.
In this sequence against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gilbert III is seen at the inside linebacker spot on the left site. When the ball is snapped, Gilbert III does a formidable job knifing into the narrow gap, and using his speed to chase down the Buccaneers quarterback. In addition to the sack, he creates a force fumble in the process.
Ulysees Gilbert In Coverage
There are few linebackers who are comfortable covering in open space, Gilbert III happens to be one of those players. In addition to his foot speed, what makes so effective in these situations are his instinct; his nose for the ball is tremendous, as he demonstrates in this goal line situation. Gilbert III is seen at the outside cornerback position. Note the way he transitions from backpedal to shadowing the receiver. Aware that the ball was going in his direction, he aggressively jumps the route and get the interception. His ability to recognize and anticipate makes him an asset in coverage situations.
Ulysees Gilbert On Special Teams
During the preseason, Gilbert III had the opportunity to prove his value on special team, and he did not disappoint. In this field goal sequence against the Carolina Panthers, Gilbert not only displayed his ability to maneuver is narrow gaps, he displayed his natural strength; an attribute has not received much attention. In this case, he is able to shrug off his blocker, and block this field goal.
The value Gilbert III is able to provide, far exceeds his placement in this year's NFL Draft. In a short period of time, the Steelers and opposing defenses alike will soon recognize his ability to affect a game in different areas and positions on the field. This off-season, the organization went to great lengths, addressing their deficiencies at the linebacker position. Yet with the Gilbert III, they found more than just a gifted linebacker, rather they found another playmaker to help them reach their destination.