Ulysees Gilbert, Tuzar Skipper the other rookies part of Steelers linebackers corps | TribLIVE.com

Ulysees Gilbert, Tuzar Skipper the other rookies part of Steelers linebackers corps

Chris Adamski
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Tuzar Skipper goes through drills during an organized team activities session May 23, 2019, in Pittsburgh.

One-third of the linebackers on Pittsburgh Steelers season-opening roster are rookies. One, No. 10 overall pick Devin Bush, was assured of making the team. The others had to show enough to do so.

A pair of Mid-American Conference standouts, Ulysees Gilbert and Tuzar Skipper, were playmakers throughout training camp and the preseason. Each defied the odds and was rewarded with a spot on the 53-man roster.

“Very thankful,” Gilbert said, “just to get a chance. I am happy to just get here and get started.”

Gilbert is a speedy inside linebacker who played at Akron. Skipper is a strong-bodied outside linebacker from Toledo. Whereas Gilbert was a sixth-round pick, Skipper not only wasn’t drafted, he wasn’t even signed until after his second tryout at an NFL rookie camp.

Both, though, sweated out last weekend’s final roster cuts. Like all NFL teams, the Steelers faced a 4 p.m. Saturday deadline to trim from 91 players to 53.

“It’s been crazy,” said Skipper, who had five sacks in four preseason games. “Just praying and hoping you make the team, that you don’t get a phone call within that 48-hour period. How ironic is that? The time you don’t want to hear anything, that’s good news, but when you do hear something that’s bad news.”

Skipper’s phone ringer is of a duck. Every time he heard quacking early Saturday, his heart skipped a beat.

Gilbert could have been spared some nervous moments with better communication.

“One of the agents for the agency knew since 11 a.m., and he didn’t tell my agent so I was kind of just out and not knowing when we knew the whole time,” Gilbert said. “I just tried not to think about it too much and let God take care of it.”

Skipper and Gilbert recognize their most immediate impact for the Steelers will be on special teams — if they earn a “hat” to play in games at all, that is.

Gilbert’s roster spot might have been clinched when he blocked a field goal in the preseason finale Aug. 29. In that game, Skipper played extensively on special teams for the firsttime, and he responded with a pair of tackles in kickoff coverage.

Though each already had spent about three months with the Steelers — counting rookie minicamps and organized team activities and minicamp, training camp and preseason games — that Gilbert and Skipper survived into September was not taken lightly.

This week, while at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, they’re part of preparations for a game against the defending Super Bowl champions.

“It feels different, I’m not gonna lie,” Gilbert said. “It feels different just seeing a lot of people gone because you play with a lot of guys for (three) months. … So it’s different, but it’s part of the process, part of the game. I am just happy that I am here.”

Hey, Steelers Nation, get the latest news about the Pittsburgh Steelers here.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Steelers
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.