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Mike Adams, a Steelers starter at Tackle for 2012?

The most controversial pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers on draft day since Santonio Holmes in 2006, is this years 2nd rounder Mike Adams out of Ohio State. The Steelers just simply don’t take these types of players normally, they want high character guys who are football players above all else.

You could be the guaranteed best college athlete on the planet but if you don’t make good decisions off the field you won’t be wearing a Pittsburgh uniform, period. It’s a draft strategy that has served the Steelers well for decades and one that they won’t soon be altering.

So why the pick of Adams in the 2nd round this year? Simply put he owned up to his mistakes, giving Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin enough confidence to take him and he’s a very talented Tackle. Many NFL draft experts had him ranked as a 1st round prospect until he tested positive for marijuana while at the combine. That knocked him down immediately and off many teams draft boards completely. The Steelers were in that same boat, having removed him from their board until he sought them out for a face to face meeting. According to both Tomlin and Colbert, he agreed to their criteria and expectations and the rest is history, for now at least.

Can Adams step in and be a starter at tackle for the Steelers this year? The history of draftees starting on the Steelers in their first year would tell you probably not, however the answer may not  be as clear cut as you think. If you look at the current tackles on the roster now for Pittsburgh, there is some competition that Adams will have to take on in addition to just learning to up his game to NFL standards.

2011 2nd round pick Marcus Gilbert spent the majority of his rookie year at right tackle and while he went through the typical growing pains, he improved as the year went on. He looks like the real deal and the Steelers think enough of him that they are likely to move him to left tackle for this coming season in place of the now departed and still recovering from ACL surgery, Max Starks. Protecting Roethlisberger’s blind side is is an important task and one that Sean Kugler will likely leave in the hands of Gilbert.

Adams was a left tackle for the Buckeye’s and according to Mike Mayock of NFL Network, he’s a legitimate player at that position.  “He would’ve been a first-round pick had he not failed the drug test at the combine. He’s got left-tackle feet. There’s some off-the-field issues, but he’s a gifted left tackle. Now with him and David DeCastro in the first round, this is a completely different offensive line.”

Is that enough to overthrow his other primary competition, Willie Colon? Well that would seem to be one of the big battles to watch this summer in training camp and preseason. We should note that it’s not been decided for sure yet if he’ll play on the left or right side but for the time being we’ll consider him to be a right tackle for the Steelers. Colon spent the last years on injured reserve and the signing of Adams this year is a sign that they aren’t convinced Colon can stay healthy. The Steelers signed him away from the Chicago Bears at the last minute in 2011 when they decided they weren’t going to bring back Flozell Adams.  After he tore his achilles in 2010 and his tricep in 2011 the team just had to look for relief at this position. You simply can’t continue to play musical chairs on the offensive line and expect to be successful.

Adams has the physical tools and the size (6’7″ 323 lbs) to be a quality tackle at the NFL level. He’s got a solid frame to hold off the bull rush and decent feet to shuffle in pass protection when the rass rusher is trying to put a move on him. According to most experts though he needs to learn to use his power and physicality more in run blocking to be effective at the next level. That’s something offensive line coach Sean Kugler will certainly be able to work with him on this offseason.

Adams will have his work cut out for him and he’s certainly not guaranteed anything, the coaches will make him earn every snap he gets. One slip up and the Steelers will have no problems with cutting ties with him sooner than what his eventual contract will allow him. If they can deal away Santonio Holmes, their Super Bowl XLIII MVP for a 5th round draft pick, they’ll have no problems taking a similar stance with Adams.

He’s got every incentive in the world to stay on the straight and narrow and judging by initial reaction he appears to be committed to leaving the past just where it should be, in the past. I would speculate that right now Colon will probably win the starting job to begin the year but Adams could be inserted in the lineup by the midway point if not sooner depending on how things pan out and if Colon can stay healthy. I say that because you have to be pretty special to start as a rookie for the Steelers, and they’d rather take their time developing a player than throw him to the wolves right out of the gate if they can help it.


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