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Steelers' tackle Marcus Gilbert suspended for four games for PED violation

Joe Rutter
| Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, 4:57 p.m.
Steelers offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert plays against the Browns on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert plays against the Browns on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Steelers offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert plays against the Broncos on Jan. 16, 2016, at Sprots Authority Field at Mile High.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert plays against the Broncos on Jan. 16, 2016, at Sprots Authority Field at Mile High.

The Steelers have become accustomed to playing without right tackle Marcus Gilbert for stretches of games the past two seasons.

Those absences, however, were because of injuries. This time, the Steelers will make do without the 6-foot-6, 330-pound lineman for the next four games because of a suspension.

The NFL announced Monday that Gilbert, a seven-year veteran, will sit out the upcoming quarter of the Steelers' schedule for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

The Steelers announced in a statement that Gilbert, 29, will not appeal the suspension. He is not permitted to be at the team facility until his suspension ends Dec. 18, the day after the Steelers play the New England Patriots in a game at Heinz Field that could determine home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

“I apologize to my teammates, coaches and entire Steelers family,” Gilbert said in a statement released on his verified Twitter account. “Regretfully, I inadvertently took a banned substance. I promise to come back in great shape and will be ready to play when my suspension is over.”

In a statement, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said he is “disappointed” in Gilbert, who will forfeit $1 million of his $4 million base salary because of the suspension. Gilbert is signed with the Steelers through the 2019 season.

In addition to the game against the Patriots, Gilbert will not play against the Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens.

Guard Ramon Foster, the Steelers' union representative, said it was a “wow factor” when he heard the news.

“It will be tough to swallow that one, probably more for himself than for us,” Foster said on his KDKA-FM radio show Monday night.

Foster said he hadn't talked to Gilbert about the suspension, but he knew something was amiss during practice earlier in the day.

“You could tell he wasn't himself,” Foster said. “You know if you've got some bad news hanging over you and you know everybody is going to find out, you feel some kind of way. He just wasn't in on it.”

Because of hamstring injuries, Gilbert missed five games this season over two stretches. He returned to the starting lineup Nov. 12 against Indianapolis and also played last Thursday against the Tennessee Titans when the Steelers won their fifth game in a row to improve to an AFC-best 8-2.

The Steelers are used to dealing with suspensions, but typically from violations of the substance-abuse policy. Wide receiver Martavis Bryant returned this season from a yearlong drug suspension, and running back Le'Veon Bell previously served two- and three-game suspensions for drug violations.

The last Steelers player to be disciplined for violating the NFL's PED policy on anabolic agents was offensive lineman Paul Wiggins, who missed the first four games of the 1998 season for taking androstenedione, the same substance used by Mark McGwire during his pursuit of the Major League Baseball single-season home run record.

In 2012, tight end Weslye Saunders received a four-game suspension for using the stimulant drug adderall. It is not known whether Gilbert was punished for an anabolic agent, masking agent or stimulant.

Gilbert also is the defendant in a lawsuit filed against him in July by a Highland Park man. Larry Parker claimed he fractured his right fibula when Gilbert slammed him into the ground during a confrontation outside Gilbert's home in January. Parker is seeking $35,000 in damages.

Veteran backup Chris Hubbard will assume Gilbert's spot at right tackle. Hubbard started all five games Gilbert missed this season, and he made three starts at right tackle last year when Gilbert did not play with an ankle injury.

Matt Feiler and Jerald Hawkins will be the backups at tackle.

The Steelers will be permitted to replace Gilbert on the 53-man roster, and it is expected rookie cornerback Cam Sutton will be activated from injured reserve Tuesday. Sutton must be added to the roster at that time or remain on IR for the rest of the season.

The Steelers also made a practice squad move Monday to beef up their line depth, re-signing tackle Jake Rodgers and waiving wide receiver Justin Thomas.

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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