By Jeremy Hritz
The pressure is now on Mike Adams.
With the most recent piece of breaking news regarding the Steelers’ offensive line, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Ed Bouchette reported that according to a source close to the organization that the rookie from Ohio State will be given the opportunity from the outset to man the left tackle position, a pretty heavy lift for a rookie accompanied by a bit of baggage.
Now, heading into camp, a clear picture of who will play where has come into better focus, at least for the time being, as it has yet to be determined whether or not the rookies who will now assume starting roles will be able to learn Todd Haley’s comet of a playbook.
Regardless, one thing is unquestionable: there will be a great deal of pressure on this group to perform. With all of the quarterback sacks surrendered at the hands of the likes of Jonathan Scott and company, there has been a palpable amount of pressure on the Steelers organization to put together an offensive line competent and capable enough of protecting Ben Roethlisberger and providing running lanes to improve what has been a lame ground game. Over the past two years, the Steelers have done just that in drafting Maurkice Pouncey in the first round in 2010 and Marcus Gilbert in the second round in 2011. And this year, they elevated their commitment by selecting what many consider to be stud offensive linemen in David DeCastro and Adams. Throw in one Willie Colon at left guard and the result, at least on paper, is what can be a solid if not elite offensive line. But championships, as former Steelers’ safety Lee Flowers would probably tell you, are not won on paper.
There are many questions yet to be answered about whether or not the 2012 version of the Steelers offensive line can live up to its billing outside of the predictable ones such as can Adams and DeCastro being able to step in and meet the Mike Tomlin standard?
And what about Colon? Will his transition to left guard be as smooth as media and fans believe it will be, as playing an interior line position is much different from being on an island at tackle? Additionally, the questions regarding his durability will not dissipate until he proves that he can make it through a season, or even a game without injury. The same questions are there for All-Pro center Pouncey who in his first two years has struggled with high ankle sprains. Will the ankle issues hinder him again in 2012?
If all of the players can stay healthy, it will go a long way in at least providing for opportunities for the offensive line to gel and gain some consistency. Yet the other question to consider is whether or not there will be chemistry between the starting five, and if Pouncey and Colon can provide the leadership necessary for this line to develop.
With the luck that the Steelers have had with the offensive line over the last several years, it appears that the unit could be on the precipice of a major improvement. However, until all of the players line up and mix it up in camp and in the preseason, it is difficult to accurately predict how things will actually play out. At least going into 2012, there is optimism surrounding the offensive line, which is something that has been missing since the early part of Roethlisberger’s career.