Marcus Gilbert's challenge: Make sure Justin Houston isn't a problem


PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert and Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston played against each other in college and trained together before the 2011 NFL draft.

The two renew acquaintances Sunday when the Chiefs visit Heinz Field in a critical game for each team.

Gilbert, who is expected to start after missing the last three games because of a high-ankle sprain, will be charged with no less a task than containing Houston, who is tied for the NFL lead with 17 sacks.

Assuming he suits up Sunday, Gilbert will have the distinction of lining up across from the NFL's top three sack leaders in four games this season.

The fourth-year veteran has played twice against Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who has 17 sacks. Gilbert also faced off against Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who has 16 1/2 sacks and is an NFL MVP candidate.

Asked if there are any similarities between Houston and Watt, Gilbert said, "They're different. J.J. Watt, he holds the middle down and he's hard to stop because he can run inside and he can run outside. He's strong in the run game and the pass game and he has it all. Justin, he's improved every year and he can only get better. He's been playing like he's got a chip on his shoulder."

That chip has hardly slowed down Houston as the 6-3, 258-pounder has recorded at least 10 sacks in three consecutive seasons. He has also forced three fumbles this season.

Gilbert isn't the only Steelers player who knows Houston well.

Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and Houston were teammates at the University of Georgia and they are close friends.

The two train together during the offseason in Atlanta.

"He's just a freak athlete," Jones said. "He's [big] and he ran a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. He understands the game a whole lot."