The news could have been worse, much worse for the Steelers after their loss to Philadelphia cost them David Johnson for the season with a torn ACL, and then seeing rookie Mike Adams go down with a knee injury too. After the game it was speculated that the injury to Adams wasn’t as severe as that of DJ, the TE/FB who was having a real nice camp and it’s a shame this had to happen. For Mike Adams though, things aren’t as bad as they could have been.
Jim Wexell reported out today that Adams says he hopes to return within 2 weeks but won’t speculate on the severity of the injury at this point. @jimwexell: Mike Adams wouldn’t reveal specifics but won’t need surgery and expects to be back within 2 wks
So now the Steelers have some options to explore for the rest of training camp and most of the preseason. We can be thankful that this injury isn’t season ending because the options behind Adams right now aren’t exactly mind blowing. They are counting on him to take over the left tackle job and run with it, being the future blind side protector of Ben Roethlisberger for a good long time. While missing a couple weeks isn’t the end of the world it is going to set him back in his learning and hinder some development as the regular season gets closer. You can also speculate that Adams may very well not be ready to start the season now at LT, it just all depends on how long he’s really out. He says he’ll be back within 2 weeks but we just don’t know for sure at this point. Players are usually more optimistic than coaches are.
Adams played with the starters vs the Eagles and while it was a rough night on the stat sheet, he got some valuable experience and showed signs of things to come. He allowed 2 sacks if you go by the stats, but also recovered the 2 subsequent fumbles. The first he just flat got beat on a speed move, but the second wasn’t completely his fault as Ramon Foster wasn’t able to slide over quickly enough to help double the outside rusher. In the running game he looked more comfortable, as you would expect any young lineman to be in his first start. Adams has shown enough in camp though so far that he’s going to be able to handle the job once he gets his feet wet a bit more.
Also according to Jim Wexell, Marcus Gilbert will work at both LT and RT today. If you remember, Gilbert was slated to possibly move to LT before the draft and was very comfortable with that transition. He mentioned several times that he prefers the left side and feels like he’s a more natural LT. The team could stick him on the left and let the other reserves take over on the right. I’m sure Roethlisberger would be more comfortable having some experience protecting his blind side for the time being.
Max Starks was signed just for this type of scenario, but he’s still on the PUP and listed as week to week by Mike Tomlin. There’s been now firm date on his return yet and no guarantee he’ll be ready for the regular season start. This may put some extra pressure on him, by his own intent, to come back sooner so depending on how far along he actually is the team might consider activating him sooner than originally planned. Rushing back from an ACL injury isn’t normally advisable but Starks says he’s feeling good so far.
Ramon Foster was a former tackle as well and in fact worked out at the position in camp on Saturday. With Gilbert taking reps on both the left and right side and Foster being versatile enough to play either guard and RT, there are options to explore here as well. Foster is a scrapper, a tough guy who just wants to make the team and help any way he can. Don’t rule him out as a possible starter at RT on opening weekend if Adams isn’t ready.
The other options at this point are Kyle Jolly, 2nd year man out of North Carolina and Chris Scott also in his 2nd year out of Tennessee. Both players saw action in the preseason game against Philadelphia on Thursday night, mainly in the 2nd half. Neither has any starting experience though in Pittsburgh but Scott did play in 2 games in 2011 when the offensive line was in musical chairs mode due to all the injuries. Both guys will get significant work the rest of the way and this time will go a long way to their bids to make the final roster.
Rookie 7th rounder Kelvin Beachum was drafted as a tackle out of SMU but has been playing guard for the most part. He’s raw but has natural athletic talent and the team may see what he can do in preseason now at Tackle.
Last ditch options are Trai Essex or Doug Legursky, both of whom are versatile enough to play any position on the line. By saying they are last ditch efforts doesn’t imply that they don’t have the talent but rather those two are backups elsewhere on the line primarily.
It’s not likely they will go out and sign another lineman at this point, but it could happen. Had the news been worse for Adams and given the situation with Starks, they might be more compelled to do so but for now they could stay status quo and see how Adams responds to treatment. If another tackle goes down though they might be hitting the free agency pool.
Either way though, things are going to be shuffled around significantly in preseason just like usual but now at Tackle the team can be thankful that Adams will be back before the season starts but his learning curve just got a bit longer now.