By Jeremy Hritz
It has been one week since the first day of the 2012 NFL Draft, and there is one player that has intrigued me to the point of distraction. There are no doubts surrounding the impact that David DeCastro will make in his rookie year. Players selected rounds three through seven will not be expected to start right away; they will only be expected to compete for a roster spot and contribute on special teams. However, the Steelers second round selection in Mike Adams represents a gray area, and there are two camps: one that believes he will bust and one that believes he will boom. If Adams can fall into the latter category, the effectiveness of the offense line will not only increase, but the effectiveness of the offense as a whole will increase as well. With all of the well-document offensive line issues of the Steelers, if one player is needed to flourish and emerge as a starter from this year’s draft class outside of DeCastro, it is Adams. Yet the questions surrounding what some call his less-than-inspiring work ethic and his character issues challenge his potential of making it work in Pittsburgh.
There is no questioning Adams’ measurable at 6’7 and 322 pounds. However, his combine numbers were ordinary, with a 40 yard dash time of 5.31, a vertical jump of 28 ½ inches, and an abysmal 19 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press (left tackle Matt Kalil, 4th overall pick of the Vikings did 30 reps). These workouts numbers can possibly validate the rumblings of Adams being a lackadaisical player, and while they do not necessarily indicate how good of a football player he can be, it does raise questions about his commitment to physical conditioning.
Adams also arrives in Pittsburgh with baggage surrounding NCAA violations and marijuana usage. This past season at Ohio State, Adams was suspended for the first five games of the season for selling his 2008 Big Ten Championship ring. In January of 2009, Adams was cited for possessing drug paraphernalia (a marijuana pipe), a charge that was dismissed. Most recently, Adams tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine, which he lied about to the Steelers. Whether these issues were just the result of naïve judgment or whether or not they are ingrained patterns of behavior has yet to be seen, but one has to be skeptical about repeated drug offenses. Adams did take the initiative in setting up a meeting with the Steelers to come clean about his marijuana usage and to satisfy unspecified criteria of the team in order to be drafted, but whether or not that commitment can be maintained has yet to be determined. Kevin Colbert’s statement that the team’s relationship with Adams is “day to day” shows that they are still not ultimately convinced of the tackle’s reformation.
The film of Adams shows that he is a capable pass protector who is more patient than he is aggressive; however, this style has been productive for him as in his junior year he shut down the formidable Texan’s J.J. Watt who abused NFL blockers in 2011. While he is not a bulldozer in the running game, he is adept at getting his hands on defenders and manipulating them away from the play (check out Ohio State’s rushing statistics with and without Adams and determine his importance for yourself). The bottom line is that he possesses the tools necessary to play a critically important role at left tackle for the Steelers.
That is why all eyes should be on him in training camp.
If Adams is able to stay focused and seek the influence and guidance of his coaches and fellow teammates, he has a chance to potentially develop into a starter this season. If he was able to achieve the success that he did at Ohio State without a maximal effort, then he has only scratched the surface of his potential. The Steelers coaching staff, especially offensive line coach Sean Kugler, undoubtedly is eagerly anticipating pushing Adams to realize his true capabilities. Influence of veteran teammates, exemplary coaching, and Adams’ love of the Steelers and desire to play for them are what Steelers fans must hope for Adams to overcome his past transgressions. If he does, then I believe the offensive line will gain two new Pro Bowl quality starters this year.
If he does not, his career may lazily go down in a cloud of smoke.