By Matthew Marczi
Mike Adams should be thanking Levi Brown for being so fragile as to suffer a season-ending injury during pre-game warm ups. Had that not occurred, perhaps Adams would still be spending his Sundays in sweat clothes as he ‘hones his craft’ in practice.
That is hyperbole, of course. Given the carousel of injuries that have happened since then, including the season-ending injury to David Johnson, Adams was bound to get back onto the field sooner rather than later. And to be honest, his reps at tight end have been nothing short of mandatory.
This week, the Pittsburgh Steelers finally realized that they could not continue to play David Paulson, and are finally giving Michael Palmer the opportunity to play. Palmer, remember, was the blocking tight end behind Tony Gonzalez with the Atlanta Falcons for a few years; also remember that Gonzalez can’t block.
Even despite that, however, Palmer only played all of 11 snaps this week. Adams? He played 28 of the team’s 68 snaps.
In fact, since his demotion and subsequent benching after forfeiting three sacks and four other pressures to Jared Allen and the Minnesota Vikings in week four, Adams has averaged about 30 snaps a game, including a high of 39 against the Oakland Raiders.
It is notable that the Steelers were able to avoid playing him too much in passing situations in this week’s victory over the Buffalo Bills. Of his 28 snaps, only six of them came with Ben Roethlisberger dropping back to pass.
That was an impossibility over the course of the past two weeks due to the fact that the Steelers were consistently playing from behind. In fact, Adams played 69 snaps in those two games, and 52 of them came in passing situations. He gave up six pressures combined in those two games, neither great nor bad.
In the four games that he has been back on the field playing tight end—with brief stretches at both tackle positions due to injury—Adams has played well, though he still shows obviously technical flaws, especially in pass protection.
Still, in his 117 snaps in that stretch, he has earned a collective grade of 4.0 from Pro Football Focus, which has actually raised his season grade up to -5.7. Most importantly, however, those 117 snaps have kept Adams in the loop.
It is probably only a matter of time before Adams is back in the lineup, whether it is due to injury or promotion. Will that be at left tackle or right tackle? And will it even occur by the end of this season?
I don’t know, but you know that Adams is in their future plans along the starting offensive line. Were he not, he probably wouldn’t be taking so many reps at tight end.