On Monday, Gibson made a brilliant catch of a high-and-wide pass from Charlie Batch.
On Tuesday, he caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Brian St. Pierre between a pair of defenders in the one-minute drill.
On Wednesday, with several receivers out with an injury, Gibson was in the starting lineup, and he made the most of it.
“This was my best practice,” he said as he walked off the field with a smile. “You know, in camp it’s a learning curve and you get better every day; you try to limit your mistakes. And in order to get on the field, you’ve got to come out here and show the coaches you know what you’re doing and show them you can make plays. It felt pretty good today.”
Many felt the Steelers got a steal in the fourth round last April when they drafted the 6-foot-4 Gibson out of the University of Georgia. The Steelers gambled they could find a receiver later in the draft, and hoped they’d hit the jackpot with Gibson to go along with first-rounder Heath Miller.
Gibson started 34 games at Georgia and caught 161 passes (17.9 avg.) and scored 20 touchdowns. He was the Bulldogs’ version of Plaxico Burress opposite the Hines Ward-like Reggie Brown. Gibson was their tall deep threat, and the Steelers hoped that would carry over to the next level.
But in the first week of camp, Gibson was virtually non-existent. The name of the tall receiver on everyone’s lips was instead Walter Young. And when Lee Mays was hurt, it was Young and Sean Morey moving into the four-wide set, not their most-decorated rookie receiver.
Young, though, sat out Wednesday morning’s practice with a hamstring problem, as did starter Antwaan Randle El. Hines Ward, of course, is holding out and Mays has remained out.
And so, the Steelers gave Gibson a shot, and he turns in his best day.
“It felt good, man,” he said. “It feels really different as the starter. You’re more focused on what you’ve got to do and you’re just out there trying to impress the coaches. It’s not just a one day thing. You’ve got to do the same thing every day.
“Now I understand what I’m doing, understanding where I’m lining up. It’s the little things. Take care of the little things first and everything else will take care of itself.”
That’s how he dug out of a similarly slow start at Georgia. A prize recruit, Gibson was on the bench behind Brown as a freshman when Brown tore his ACL.
“It took me five games to get started there,” he said. “Same thing here. I’m a rookie and sometimes it takes a little bit of time for people to understand things.”
When Gibson reported to mini-camp, the Steelers moved him into a locker next to Ward’s.
Ward, also from Georgia, had made the request in order to take Gibson under his wing. Gibson had a fine spring, but wishes his mentor was in camp now.
“Hines is always tough on me,” he said. “He’s not going to tell me what I want to hear. He wants to get me better, and I respect that. That’s a good guy to look up to.”
Has he, like seemingly everyone else on the team, talked to Ward on the phone?
“No, I haven’t talked to him,” Gibson said. “I’ve been so busy with the playbook.”
Gibson may not have it all figured out, but he’s in a good situation. Injuries/defections/holdouts have created an opportunity for him. In fact, Gibson could see plenty of playing time Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, who, because of similar circumstances, might be forced into playing their own rookie from Georgia.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Reggie Brown again,” Gibson said. “Reggie is in a great situation, and it’s going to be funny seeing him on the other team Monday night. Hopefully I’ll get the edge on him and we’ll go out there and win.”