The Pittsburgh Steelers were in need of help at cornerback. I watched three of their four pre-season games and their defence struggled against the pass. Over four games they have have allowed 917 passing yards and recorded just three interceptions. As teams tried to trim their rosters to 53 over the weekend they got their man, trading a sixth-round pick in 2018 for Justin Gilbert of the Cleveland Browns. This was a rare inter-division trade.
In the 2014 draft the Browns had two first round picks. They chose Johnny Manziel and Gilbert. At the time NFL.com’s Nolan NawRocki called Gilbert ‘The most talented cover corner in this year’s draft class,’ and Mike Mayock said ‘He’s 6-foot, 202 pounds and ran a 4.37 (40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine). He’s the prototype cornerback in today’s NFL.’
Fast forward two years and Gilbert’s NFL numbers have been disappointing to say the least. He’s played in just 23 of 32 games since he entered the league and has accounted for only 39 combined tackles and one interception. Those numbers suggest that, had a trade not been forthcoming, he was in danger of being cut any way. A change of scenery, particularly to one that has such a fabled defensive history as Pittsburgh’s, should do no end of good for Gilbert. He’s much more likely to contribute, if not reach his potential.
Want to know why the Browns are consistently terrible? Look no further than their first round draft history. This off-season alone they traded away previous first round picks Barkevious Mingo and now Gilbert. In fact, six of the last nine Browns number ones are no longer with the team: 2011 pick defensive tackle Phil Taylor (21st overall); 2012 picks running back Trent Richardson (3rd overall) and quarterback Brandon Weeden (22nd overall); 2013 picks Mingo (sixth overall) and Manziel (22nd overall) and now Gilbert.