The Pittsburgh Steelers look more like a M.A.S.H. unit than a football team these days. Then again, that’s pretty much the same song and dance we run into every year. Each week there’s at least one new face in the lineup for some period of time, and it seems to hit the offensive line the most. Heading into week 7, things are basically status quo then, since rookie tackle Mike Adams will start in the place of the injured Marcus Gilbert.
Earlier this week Maurkice Pouncey tweeted out that his teammate could be out as long as 2 months, but Gilbert later clarified that he would be back much sooner than that. For whatever length of time Gilbert is out, Adams will start in his place, and he’ll get a trial by fire.
I was listening to one of our good friends of the site recently, Lance Williams of Steel Radio, and a conversation that he had with Bengals beat writer Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The two talked about how the Bengals will attack Adams this weekend and Reedy mentioned that we should expect to see Carlos Dunlap, 3rd yr DE out of Florida, against Mike Adams on a regular basis.
This shouldn’t come as any surprise, as Dunlap is one of the premier young defensive lineman in the league. He uses his athletic ability, speed, and power to overwhelm lineman on a regular basis; and even though he’s had some injury problems he is a force to deal with. This could spell trouble for Mike Adams if Mike Tomlin and Sean Kugler (offensive line coach) decide to leave the rookie alone for any length of time.
Being a rookie in the NFL is a tough job, there’s no denying it. You are going to take your lumps no matter what position you play; but the only way to learn is to get experience. The problem is, when you’re an offensive lineman, those growing pains can become pains for your quarterback in a hurry. While we all know Ben Roethlisberger is as tough as they come, the Steelers will need to be careful in their blocking schemes this Sunday night against the Bengals.
There are a few ways they can help Adams, and Roethlisberger though; not the least of which is with help on the right side of the line. It’s not uncommon for any team to bring a tight end over to help against an elite pass rusher, and even if Dunlap isn’t quite elite yet, he can spell trouble for the Steelers if they aren’t careful. Either Heath Miller or David Paulson will likely spend some time helping to block Dunlap or any other lineman the Bengals put over Adams. This will allow Ben the additional time he needs should things start to break down in pass protection. For Miller especially, he’s one of the best in the business as we all know and can always be counted on to successfully assist.
Another option is to keep a running back in as a sidecar for Ben in the pocket, likely to his right so he can step up and help should the pass rush break through. A chip block that slows down an oncoming lineman for even 1 second can mean the difference between a completed pass and a sack.
The other option, and one that I’m really hoping they utilize is just simply get the ball out quickly. Todd Haley has made it a point to help ease the burden on the offensive line by having Ben get rid of the ball quicker than we are used to seeing. Sure Ben will always be Ben, a master of keeping plays alive when necessary, but there is a concerted effort to utilize quick drops and rhythm passes to not only move the ball efficiently but also keep Ben off of the turf. So far he’s been sacked 10 times, but 8 of those game in the first two games of the season, so things are looking up. A continuation of the no huddle and quick drop play calls will help out Mike Adams and the rest of the Steelers offensive line tremendously.
Let’s not get too carried away though and bury Adams before he even starts. He could very well surprise the nay sayers and come out with a dominating effort on his own. Even though he’s had limited experience so far in his young career, he was a 1st round prospect by many for a reason. Still, expect the Steelers to give him some help especially if he struggles early. No matter how they approach this game, Adams will be under the gun and we should expect the Bengals to come at him hard all day long. He needs to be ready, the Steelers need him to play well and just as important, stay healthy.