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Wait-and-see approach for Steelers' Gilbert

| Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was noncommittal about rookie right tackle Marcus Gilbert returning to his starting spot when the team practices for the first time Wednesday in preparation for the regular-season finale at Cleveland.

"We will see," Tomlin said at his weekly news conference.

Tomlin benched Gilbert, a second-round draft pick out of Florida, against the Rams because "he was less than professional in preparation."

Gilbert was late to a team meeting earlier in the week. Gilbert had started 12 of the past 13 games at right tackle — he was inactive against Jacksonville with shoulder injury — before being limited to field goal and extra point attempts against the Rams.

Tomlin started veteran Jonathan Scott in Gilbert's absence.

"He prepared like a professional," Tomlin said of Scott. "That was worthy of a challenge of blocking a guy like Chris Long. Marcus Gilbert's behavior was not. Talent is one thing; what you are willing to do is another."

> > Tomlin awarded Trai Essex the game ball after filling in at center against the Rams after Doug Legursky went down with a shoulder injury. It was the first time Essex played an extended number of snaps at center.

"We thought Trai's willingness and ability to play center was critical to our success under unusual circumstances," Tomlin said. "To have a guy to come in and deliver the way he delivered for us — not only in the way he was snapping the football, but declaring fronts and blocking in the run game. It was a special afternoon for him."

Essex wasn't re-signed by the team until after the start of the season, and recently found his way into the starting lineup at left guard. Essex has started at the other four positions on the line during his career and could get his first start at center this week if Maurkice Pouncey is ruled out.

> > The Steelers likely will finish the season having the worst rush defense in 10 years and two stints under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. The Steelers rank ninth in the NFL, surrendering 101.7 yards rushing per game heading into Sunday's game. A LeBeau-led Steelers defense has never finished lower than third and has never allowed more than 90 yards per game. The Steelers are allowing nearly 40 more yards per game on the ground than they did a season ago.

> > Tomlin isn't expecting running back Mewelde Moore (MCL sprain) or Legursky (left shoulder) to be ready to play Sunday. Tomlin said everybody else "has a shot" to play, including Pouncey (ankle), linebacker LaMarr Woodley (hamstring), quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (high-ankle sprain) and Emmanuel Sanders (foot).

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