B/R NFL 1000: Top 34 Centers
27. Fernando Velasco, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pass Block 38/50
The Pittsburgh Steelers lost starter Maurkice Pouncey during Week 1 of the 2013 season. Fernando Velasco (6’4”, 312 lbs, four seasons) was a late veteran addition who solidified the position. Velasco is an average athlete who was an effective but limited pass protector. He showed good technique and excellent awareness that somewhat offset his heavier feet.
Run Block 32/50
Velasco can get from one point of the field to the other relatively quickly, and he keeps his legs moving through contact on the line of scrimmage. However, his below-par athleticism curtailed his impact in 2013. Velasco struggled to handle bigger defensive linemen inside and didn’t consistently locate defenders in space.
For a late veteran addition, Velasco gave the Steelers more than they expected. However, he wasn’t even an average starter.
-- People want this guy above Pouncey. Silly.
B/R NFL 1000: Top 35 Right Tackles
23. Marcus Gilbert, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pass Block 32/50
Marcus Gilbert (6’6”, 330 lbs, three seasons) is a physically gifted player who still hasn’t quite put it all together. He moves laterally as well as any right tackle in the NFL, but sometimes that can be a disadvantage. He’ll slide too quickly to the outside to meet a speed rusher, who will then counter back to the inside. Gilbert needs to trust his hands and feet in meeting speed rushers to the edge instead of trying to beat them to the spot.
Run Block 31/50
Gilbert will overrun blocks out in space and struggle to find a consistent landing point when asked to meet defenders at the second level. He has the foot speed that allows him to break down before engaging with defenders, but he will too often overrun his assignment and be easily avoided or shed by the defender. He’s not overly physical when engaged, but he has the athleticism that should allow him to develop a better ability to seal lanes by getting his feet set in the right position.
Gilbert has the potential to skyrocket in these rankings next season.
He doesn’t have to become a mauling right tackle; that’s just not how he’s built. He has exceptional athleticism and needs to find ways to display that. He can start by trusting his ability to push speed rushers up the field and not leave himself susceptible to the counter back to the inside. He also needs to improve his ability to break down before engaging out in space in the running game.
-- Gilbert had a better season than most will like to admit. He has the potential to be the best Tackle on this team next season.