PITTSBURGH -- Perhaps Justin Gilbert uses this fresh start to reignite his once-promising career. But the Pittsburgh Steelers' low-risk trade for cornerback help should be met with skepticism, given how bad Gilbert's tenure in Cleveland really was.
I was in Cleveland for the 2014 season, and this is the line I heard often behind the scenes.
Johnny's bad, but he's not as bad as Justin Gilbert.
The sentiment was that though Johnny Manziel was a problem as a rookie, he was considered more reliable when it came to punctuality than fellow rookie Gilbert, who eventually admitted to reporters he had a tendency to oversleep. Once veterans in the Browns locker room started telling Gilbert to "grow up" through the media, his career in Cleveland was over before it started.
The fact the Browns traded Gilbert inside the AFC North shows how unimpressed they were with Gilbert's push to carve out a role in the Hue Jackson era.
And now he's a Steeler.
It's easy to say a former top 10 pick is worth a sixth-round flier. But this is where the Steelers better be sure Gilbert has a skill that translates to their defensive scheme. Based on two NFL seasons, Gilbert's 6-foot frame, long arms and athleticism can't offset his unproven coverage skills. Gilbert must shrug off what appears to be an aloof attitude toward professional football. It's not like Gilbert was playing behind stud corners in Cleveland. The Browns' pass defense was 22nd in the league last year, and Gilbert managed 50 snaps in that defense.
Either the Steelers will look really smart with this deal, or they will have traded late-round picks in back-to-back years without sufficient corner help to show for it. Brandon Boykin, acquired for a fifth-round pick last year, didn't play for most of the year, and though he was adequate in a late-season role, the team did not consider re-signing him.
With dozens of cornerbacks available via waivers this weekend -- including another former top-10 pick, Dee Milliner -- the Steelers might have found help without giving up a draft pick. It should be noted that waiver assignments are based on draft order, meaning the Steelers pick 25th. The good corners would likely be gone by then.
If the Steelers see something worthwhile in Gilbert, they've earned that trust with the fanbase.
I just don't see it.
Maybe he's a different guy in a stable organization.
At least he's not as bad as Johnny.