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Season Of Change – Swapping Tackles

After two straight seasons of equivalent wins and losses, it’s certainly no surprise that the front office of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been busier and more active than usual in their efforts to reshape a middling roster into a true competitor.

The past few months could be fairly described as a season of change amid the shifting fates of a franchise that had just been to the Super Bowl three times in the very recent past. It may well be that past success that has helped drag them down of late.

Of course, selecting late in the draft annually doesn’t help, nor do the big contracts going out to the players that helped you reach that success. But the true death knell has been an unwillingness to recognize when to let go.

The Steelers had hoped to hold together that championship core for a while longer, but the last two seasons have been the wake-up call necessary to introduce the wave of change that we’ve seen this offseason, designed to steer the organization back in the right direction.

If the Steelers didn’t have big plans for the future of left tackle Mike Adams, they quite simply never would have drafted him. It would take quite a bit for a general manager such as Kevin Colbert to pull the trigger on a player with the red flags that he came in with in the second round without a strong belief that he would succeed.

It’s worth keeping that in mind when reviewing how Adams wound up as the starting left tackle for the beginning of the 2013 season.

As a rookie, Adams started a handful of games at right tackle, with mixed success. Namely, he succeeded in blocking for the running backs, but not so much for the quarterbacks.

But the coaches must have felt comfortable with what they saw from him during the offseason, because one day they simply swapped him and Marcus Gilbert and never looked back, even considering the fact that he was recovering from a knife wound.

Adams’ preseason performance wasn’t overly inspiring, but then again, neither Gilbert nor Kelvin Beachum seemed overly impressive either. So it was that Adams took the field in the season opener protecting Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side.

We all know how the story developed from that point on, of course. His poor performance, particularly against the pass rush, was a crucial element of the Steelers’ 0-4 start to the season, leaving Roethlisberger constantly on the run and leading to costly turnovers.

The Steelers had already been experimenting through the first four games, giving Beachum a series here and there at either tackle position, so it wasn’t particularly surprising that, following the Bye Week, lineup changes were made, one of being to send Adams to the bench.

Beachum started 11 of the last 12 games at left tackle, missing one game due to injury, and it would be hard to argue that the team didn’t play better, going 8-3 in those games. As Beachum settled down into his new role, so too did the offense, even if he wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire with an All-Pro-worthy performance.

No, Beachum simply got the job done last year, by any means necessary. And he will get the first crack at that job this year, one that nobody is likely to take from him.

It’s hard to say what the future holds for Adams, but the future doesn’t appear to be now. It’s crucial that the Steelers recognized this and were willing to change accordingly. It nearly salvaged the 2013 season, and should help get them off to a better start this year.

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