By Jeremy Hritz
How can you be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan right now and not be excited and optimistic about the 2012 NFL season? Ever since 2006, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been pounded, beaten, and broken, resulting in injuries that compromised the success of the season. Just over the past two years, Roethlisberger suffered a broken nose, thumb, and a high ankle sprain last year that hindered the goal of winning the AFC North. And while players like Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert were drafted in 2010 and 2011 respectively, those two players were not enough to protect Roethlisberger and create lanes in the running game. However, after the second day of the 2012 NFL Draft, the potential of this year’s Steelers offensive line to dominate is scary.
The league is well aware of the All-Pro abilities of Pouncey, and Gilbert is an up-and-comer who played well at right tackle as a rookie. Now with the additions of Stanford guard David DeCastro and Ohio State tackle Mike Adams, the Steelers appear to have assembled an offensive line that will be a strength for many years.
While many will criticize the selection of Adams because of his NCAA violations and marijuana usage, what cannot be overlooked is the Rooney’s and Kevin Colbert’s overall body of work in the NFL Draft, which is near impeccable, and quite possibly without rival. If despite Adams’ transgressions he was still drafted by the Steelers, it communicates that the organization is confident that he will right his wrongs and develop into a player that will be an essential part of a new offense led by Todd Haley. The difference between the environment at Ohio State and Pittsburgh will be great, and the influence exerted by veteran, revered coaches like Mike Tomlin and Sean Kugler will have a greater, more positive impact than the one imparted by the questionable Jim Tressel.
The question now becomes whether or not Adams will start at the beginning of the season, which would seem highly unlikely. While there is no question that DeCastro will be the starting right guard next year, Adams is a different story. When Kugler was asked about Adams coming in and contributing immediately, he offered a noncommittal response: “Each guy is different. Some guys can just step in and play ball, some guys can’t. That remains to be seen. I hate to put a label on one guy, we’ll see when we get to OTA’s and those things.” Kugler did not say that Adams could come in and start, but he also did not say that he couldn’t, which could be interpreted that Adams will get an opportunity to compete.
Regardless, even if DeCastro is the only one out of this drafted duo to start this year, it automatically improves the offensive line, and with Willie Colon returning, the Steelers will have a quality right tackle, given he stays healthy. Ramon Foster should be able to hold things down at left guard in addition. If Adams does earn a starting job, the questions then becomes, does Colon move to guard and does Gilbert go back to right tackle if Adams starts on the left side?
Whatever the starting lineup combination, there is no denying the Steelers offensive line of 2012 has the potential to be one of the best in the league, which could result in a healthy Roethlisberger and hyperactive scoreboards.