Ex-Steelers Cornerback Helps Lions Preserve Tie

Diontae Johnson Mark Gilbert

Emilee Chinn/Getty Images Diontae Johnson of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball in overtime against Mark Gilbert of the Detroit Lions on November 14, 2021.

Sunday afternoon’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions ended in a 16-16 tie, but for a fleeting moment in the middle of overtime it looked like the Steelers might find a way to escape Heinz Field with a victory. That moment occurred with 7:32 left in the extra session, when Steelers backup quarterback Mason Rudolph hooked up with wide receiver Diontae Johnson on a 39-yard pass play.

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Johnson beat Detroit cornerback Mark Gilbert, but the former Duke product—the cousin of former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Darrelle Revis and the nephew of former No. 3 overall pick Sean Gilbert—didn’t give up on the play. Instead, he tracked Johnson until he caught up with the third-year receiver and then punched the ball out of Johnson’s hands, with one of his teammates recovering the fumble at Detroit’s 45-yard line.

Had Johnson not fumbled, the Steelers would have had a first down at Detroit’s 40-yard line, already at the outer edge of the range of placekicker Chris Boswell.

Nor was the forced fumble the only play that Gilbert made against the Steelers. According to ESPN’s box score, Gilbert finished the game with three total tackles (two solo), plus one pass defensed.

Mark Gilbert Signed With The Steelers in May 2021

Yet little more than a month ago, Gilbert was a developmental prospect on Pittsburgh’s practice squad. That is, until October 12, when Detroit poached Gilbert and added him to its active roster.

Sunday’s game at Heinz Field was just Gilbert’s second appearance in an NFL game, having made his debut on October 31 in a 44-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. On that day, he played 14 snaps on defense and two on special teams, as per Pro Football Reference. He was targeted on one occasion and allowed one catch for two yards.

Gilbert was originally signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent on May 1, 2021. Pittsburgh released him as part of its final round of roster cuts on August 31, 2021, but signed him to the practice squad on September 1.

The Steelers Lost Quincy Roche and Jamir Jones to Waiver Claims in September

Notably, Gilbert is the third developmental player that the Steelers have lost this season, with the other two having been claimed on waivers. First, the Steelers lost 2021 sixth-round pick Quincy Roche, who was claimed by the New York Giants on September 1, after the onetime Miami Hurricanes outside linebacker was part of Pittsburgh’s final round of roster cuts.

Then on September 29, the Los Angeles Rams claimed outside linebacker Jamir Jones after the Steelers waived him a day earlier. Jones went on to block a kick in his Rams debut, and the so-called “double punt” block went viral after Seattle Seahawks punter Michael Dickson managed to punt the ball a second time, this in spite of the initial block.

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