LATROBE – Call it the training camp battle that wasn’t, at least according to Marcus Gilbert.
The Steelers’ right tackle saw the stories in the offseason that he and Mike Adams would compete for a starting spot in training camp this season and laughed.
“I don’t know where that was coming from,” Gilbert said. “I never considered it a competition.”
That’s not a knock on Adams. Gilbert just felt that good after playing all 16 games in 2013 after an ankle injury in 2012 limited him to just five starts.
The Steelers like what they’ve seen of the fourth-year pro as well.
At the beginning of training camp at Saint Vincent College, general manager Kevin Colbert said the Steelers were targeting Gilbert, placekicker Shaun Suisham, cornerback Cortez Allen and linebacker Jason Worilds for contract extentions.
Suisham’s deal was completed by the end of the first full week of training camp and the team is closing in on a deal with Gilbert that will keep the 26-year-old in Pittsburgh beyond the 2014 season.
“Different deals take different time,” Gilbert said. “But I want to be here.”
The Steelers have seen that throughout the offseason and training camp.
Gilbert is having, perhaps, his best training camp, holding down the right tackle spot on what could be a much-improved offensive line.
“He’s looked really good,” said guard David DeCastro. “He’s healthy. We’re all healthy. But him, especially, he’s looking good.”
A second-round draft pick in 2011, Gilbert wound up making 13 starts at right tackle that season in place of injured Willie Colon, winning the Joe Greene Great Performance Award given to the team’s top rookie.
But Gilbert injured his knee in the 2012 opener at Denver, then a right ankle injury eventually landed him on injured reserve.
He was healthier in 2013, starting all 16 games – the only Steelers lineman to do so - at right tackle.
His injury opened the door for Adams, a 2012 second-round draft pick, to start six games that season at right tackle before he went down with an ankle injury as well.
The Steelers tried Adams at left tackle in 2013 but he was pulled in favor of Kelvin Beachum four games into the season.
That’s why the news of a training camp competition at right tackle with Adams was news to him.
“Those (starting jobs) were guy’s jobs to lose,” said DeCastro. “We feel like we have a pretty good group, it was going to be set, unless somebody really made a jump.”
That hasn’t happened, and the Steelers feel comfortable with their starting five of Gilbert and Kelvin Beachum at tackle, DeCastro and Ramon Foster at guard and Maurkice Pouncey at center.
Unlike previous training camps, where there were one or more starting jobs open on the line, the Steelers hope having a settled line will allow the unit to build on what it did in the second half of 2013. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked just 11 times in the final eight games.
“I helps,” DeCastro said. “It’s allowing us to gel more as a group. We know each other really well, especially Marcus and I on the right side.”
Odds and end zones
Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier, the team’s top draft pick, returned to practice Monday on a limited basis. Shazier missed the past week and preseason opener with a knee injury but plans on playing in the team’s preseason game Saturday against Buffalo. … Tight end Matt Spaeth and safety Mike Mitchell were given the day off. … Tight end Michael Palmer (ankle) and wide receiver Justin Brown (thumb) sat out with injuries. … The Steelers on Monday waived running back Juwan Jamison but did not make a corresponding move to replace him on the roster. … The Steelers are off today.