When the Steelers drafted Mike Adams out of OSU this past April, they had visions of him being the future
anchor at left tackle for the next 10-15 years. When you draft someone that high, especially a guy like Adams who had 1st round potential on many draft boards, you expect them to come into camp and perform well. While the Steelers are not in a full on rebuilding mode, they are getting younger in a hurry. There’s no better place to get young with a quality player, than on the offensive line.
You never know what you’re going to get out of a rookie, even a high round choice, because the NFL draft is still a crap shoot. Even with all the preparation that goes into selecting a player; interviews, physicals, game film, and more there’s no guarantee that anyone is going to pan out into the next big thing that you hope they will.
Mike Adams may be that guy for the Steelers this year, or at least one of those guys considering the big names they drafted in the first four rounds. In Saturday’s practice, Mike Adams ran with the first team almost exclusively at LT. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s remember what Mike Tomlin said in one of his recent post practice press briefings; “…he’s still far from ready”. If he would win the starting job there will most certainly be growing pains, the brunt of which QB Ben Roethlisberger & OC Todd Haley would have to endure. Having said that, there’s no better way to get ready than with experience running with the first team. Doing it in practice is one thing but the real test will begin in preseason this Thursday when the team travels to Philadelphia for their first preseason game, which starts at 7:30 EST.
Training camp is the time to find out just what you have in a player, so offensive line coach Sean Kugler is doing just that and so far Adams is showing that he’s capable of learning on the job and more importantly learning from his mistakes. Again, he’s making a lot of them but he’s also improving every day. That combined with the fact that he may be the only real choice to start, tells us even more to keep an eye on this kid. A brief look at his competition reveals a bit more into why he may be starting in week 1.
Max Starks: Still on the PUP list in camp and Tomlin has not revealed any indication as to when he might come off that list. Until then he cannot practice with the team, although he does attend all the meetings, film sessions, and works out with coaches and trainers during camp. He was brought in for insurance, just before Jonathan Scott was released. Starks could stay on the list even when the season starts, which paves the way for Adams to continue to get significant reps protecting Ben’s blind side.
Trai Essex & Doug Legursky: Both players are versatile backups and can play every position on the Steelers line. If you had to choose between these two as the LT starter, it would be Essex because he does have a bit more experience there than Legs does. However neither should ultimately be considered for this job because their services are needed elsewhere for depth. If Adams starts showing that he’s completely lost in game situations, Essex would like be inserted for the time being.
Kelvin Beachum: The rookie 7th round pick (compensatory) is listed as a Tackle but has been getting reps at guard as well. He’s been turning some heads in camp so far, playing with good leverage, athleticism, and showing some pretty quick feet. He’s got a chance to make the roster as a backup but is more of a long term project than a starter now. Still, keep an eye on this one for future reference.
Chris Scott: Another project player, now in his second year who could make the team as a backup or be a practice squad candidate.
Ramon Foster: He is a guard, however previously he was a Tackle and in a pinch could play that position if need be.
So when you look at that scenario, the only real possible candidate to play on the left side is Adams. Like we said, if he struggles more in camp and preseason, Tomlin can turn to Essex as a temporary fix but everyone wants to see Adams take this job and run with it (make no mistake though, if he’s not ready, they will find someone else). Even though there was talk of Marcus Gilbert moving to the left side, that’s been pushed to the back burner for now (although it’s still an option if need be) as his home appears to be set at RT and the future on the left is one Mike Adams.