By Matthew Marczi
As with the other two new starters along the offensive line for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Adams already has playing experience. Unlike Marcus Gilbert, however, he will not have to move to a new position—that is, unless, he somehow wins the left tackle job, which seems rather unlikely.
The skill set that he displayed from a season ago, though, strongly dictates that he fits best as a right tackle in the Steelers’ scheme, which favors running toward the right side. Adams’ run blocking was miles ahead of his pass protection in 2012, so much so that he garnered quite a bit of attention for his performance in that area.
Pro Football Focus in particular was complimentary of his run blocking ability, naming him to the site’s ‘Team of the Week’ for Week 7 in 2012, which was just his first career start. The following week, on the site’s recap of the Steelers’ Week 8 victory over the Washington Redskins, Adams was highlighted once again, along with Ramon Foster. PFF writes that the pair gave up just a single hurry between them on 72 combined pass rushing attempts “while adding strong work in the running game”.
If you will recall, the Steelers rushed for 140 yards on that day on 5.2 yards per carry. Jonathan Dwyer totaled 107 yards on just 17 carries, while Chris Rainey added another 26 yards on four carries.
In fact, the Redskins game marked the middle of an exceptional three-game stretch that saw the Steelers average 155 rushing yards per game—which just so happened to coincide with the first three starts in the career of Mike Adams. The week prior, Dwyer ran for 122 yards on his own, and the week following the Redskins came, Isaac Redman ran for 147 yards.
During the rest of his six starts, however, the Steelers had their struggles rushing. Which is not surprising, because these three games also coincided with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, which derailed the entire offense.
Between Weeks 10 and 12, the Steelers averaged about 112 yards per game on the ground. In addition, they managed just 3.75 yards per rush. Of course, all of the blame for this certainly cannot be placed on Adams, who remained strong in his run blocking and displayed an ability to get to the second level on blocks. His pass protection, however, was another matter.
Despite PFF’s praise of his run blocking, the site was not nearly as charitable on his pass protection. It is no secret, of course, that Adams had his struggles in this area. But his 25 pressures allowed in 280 snaps was good for the 11th worst pass blocking efficiency rating as of the time that he was injured, with a rating of 92.7.
In three of his eight games of significant playing time, Adams allowed more than one sack; that includes Week 1 against the Denver Broncos, in which he and Doug Legursky each were credited with giving up 1.5 sacks, the half being one for which they split the blame.
It was also his responsibility, Justin Houston in the Kansas City Chiefs game, that ultimately received the credit for the sack that injured Roethlisberger, although the scramble that ensued would make it difficult to place singular blame on one player in that instance.
One game in particular, the Week 11 contest against the Baltimore Ravens, was especially egregious, as he was routinely beaten by Paul Kruger to the tune of two sacks, two hits, and eight quarterback pressures.
There is no question that Adams has some major areas of improvement to work on. Though his run blocking has been talked about, he has a habit of not playing through the whistle, which results in his man getting in on the tackle by the end of the play. In pass protection, he was very inconsistent from a technical standpoint. He needs to keep rushers out of his chest plate and not overcommit to edge rushers, who are able to use his momentum against him to push him aside and take the inside.
There were times during his rookie season where Mike Adams appeared to be in over his head, not ready to face the challenges that come with playing at the highest level. Hopefully, however, the starting experience that he accrued as a rookie will prove invaluable to him taking the next step in his second year. He and the rest of the offensive line reportedly put in some serious hours in the weight room this offseason, so he should at least be physically stronger than a year ago. Perhaps his late night incident last month will help make him mentally stronger as well.