With spots open for a variety of reasons, Gilbert sat in the shadows with a hamstring injury while fellow rookie Keith Williams capitalized on the extra work and impressed the coaching staff.
"It was pretty frustrating because I felt like I was an outsider, [but the older guys] took me under their wing and just showed me how to be a professional when you're handling adversity," said Gilbert, who completed his first practice with the Steelers on Monday.
"I just took the steps, did what I had to do in the training room, did what I had to do in the meeting room, stayed after with coach. … I felt pretty good out there. I felt like where I was today was pretty good, but I've got a long ways to go and I've got to keep progressing."
Gilbert looked confident as the second-team left tackle during a pass-heavy scrimmage. He held his own against Sunny Harris and showed awareness in knowing when to help a fellow lineman and when to peel off for his own battle. He did struggle on a play against linebacker Chris McCoy, who took advantage of some slow footwork by the second-rounder and beat Gilbert with speed around the edge.
Gilbert engaged in a showcase one-on-one battle with fellow draftee Chris Carter. All five of Gilbert's reps came against Carter, who welcomed the lineman back into the fold with a quick pancake on their first matchup.
"I hadn't taken a pass rep live since college," Gilbert said. "Ever since that first one, I came out and did my thing and listened to the coach and kept my head on straight. Just for now, I got to get better at it."
The rookie did get better at it. By the fifth rep, he manhandled Carter.
ROOMMATES SQUARE OFF: Gilbert's roommate at camp is first-round pick Cameron Heyward and the Steelers' top two picks were finally able to meet on the field.
"It was pretty interesting," Gilbert said. "We're roommates so we're always talking about getting the opportunity to face each other. Now I got an opportunity to go against him. It was pretty physical. We were going at it, and that's what I love. Two players that just want to work their hardest and make each other battle."
While the overall matchup appeared to be a wash, Gilbert did get the best of his roommate on a play during a first-and-10, run-heavy scrimmage when he pushed the first-rounder to the right side and contained him to allow the running back to cut back for a decent gain.
As for Heyward, three things stood out on Monday. First, he's as good of a teammate as everyone expected and was the first man out to tap up his fellow lineman as they subbed out during team scrimmages.
Second, Heyward has a bit of nastiness – the good kind. It flared up in one-on-ones during a fierce win against Colin Miller, who had beaten him earlier in the drill.
Third – and this was another one that was expected – he's one heck of a hustler. Heyward broke through on a running play but found the ball was already headed left on a sweep. Heyward fought his way through the trash and was the first man to meet the ball-carrier at the sideline.
I've been saying this all throughout camp: Cam may not have Ziggy Hood's strength, but he's got a higher gear than his fellow lineman as far as speed and quickness go.
WRs vs. DBs: The receiving corps squared off against the DBs in a two-on-three drill. One unknown who stood out was undrafted rookie Niles Brinkley, the son of Steelers 1972 fourth-round pick Lorenzo Brinkley. Niles held his own with tight coverage against Antonio Brown and Limas Sweed, who had a good six inches on the 5'10" corner.
One cornerback that was underwhelming in the drill was Keenan Lewis, who struggled in press coverage and had no answer for bigger receivers using their bodies to box him out. Undrafted rookie Eric Greenwood beat Lewis that way for a touchdown. Wes Lyons also had a wide open chance against Lewis but dropped the ball. Lyons did rebound and beat both Lewis and William Gay later in the drill.
FIVE THINGS I LEARNED:
1. Speaking of Greenwood, he's becoming the early favorite for most-nicknamed player at training camp. The two I've heard thus far: "Powder" (in reference to how pale he is) and "Eight-ball" in reference to the number 8 he's been wearing in camp.
3. Will Allen is going to stick around for another season, almost entirely because of his work on special teams. He was downright dominant in special teams drills, repeatedly breaking free from his man as a gunner.
4. This may not be new, but it is to me: The Steelers lined one receiver up directly behind another during one drill, using the first man as a momentary screen. I'd only seen that previously from the New Orleans Saints.