Keion Adams Takes Lessons, Inspiration From ‘Alpha Dog’ James Harrison

If Pittsburgh Steelers rookie outside linebacker Keion Adams spent any time trying to find an example to encourage him as he tries to battle long odds as a late-round draft pick to make the 53-man roster and to have a productive career, then he need not have looked very far.

The Western Michigan product was looking forward to working with veteran James Harrison, and he finally got an opportunity to do so as the team opened up in OTAs. “He came off as—not necessarily hard, but you could tell that he has that demeanor”, he said of his initial encounters with the Steelers’ all-time sack leader.

“He’s the alpha male, he’s the alpha dog. So it was just something that I just wanted to come in and listen to what he had to say, watch anything as far as detail and techniques as far as what I can do to up my game”, he told Missi Matthews recently during a sit-down interview with the team’s website.

Much of the conversation actually focused on Harrison, and rightfully so, as that is the sort of success that Adams would like to emulate, coming from a similar starting point. The Kent State product also came out of the MAC conference, as did Adams, though in his case going undrafted. And it was years before he had a stable presence on an NFL roster.

“I know he’s been through so much, he’s been through a lot as far as being cut early on in his career and stuff like that”, Adams said, “so it just shows that no matter what, as long as you keep working, as long as you attack the day, then anything is possible”.

“A guy that’s coming from the MAC”, he continued, “establishing yourself in an organization that’s had so many great linebackers and so many great defensive players and him being one of the top dogs, coming from a conference that I played in, it’s just a story that I really want to have on my own, be able to create on my own”.

The young outside linebacker is taking inspiration from Harrison’s journey all the while getting the opportunity to work with him and learn from him first-hand as he pursues the same path 15 years later. It is a rare opportunity that the Steelers understand is present as the former Defensive Player of the year helps develop their young edge rushers, including Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt.

“You get what you see”, Adams said of Harrison. “He’s a hard worker, he’s determined, he’s going to go out there and give you everything he has. His display of character as far as [being in] that dog-eat-dog world, he’s going to grind”.

I can’t think of a better person to be able to teach through example than Harrison. It’s fortunate that he is still around as the likes of Dupree, Watt, Adams, and Anthony Chickillo continue to develop. And it’s also fortunate that all these young players recognize it and are taking advantage of the opportunity—which is perhaps something that Jarvis Jones didn’t adhere to as much as he should have.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Brenton deed

    A bit harsh on Jarvis … maybe…. he just didn’t have the frame…. or the speed. They’re hard to teach.
    You could be right though…after all they might have said about Deebo that he just didn’t have the height!

  • Michael Conrad

    LOL ,yes maybe Jones did not have the speed or moves or frame but you know what he really lacked was the desire to put in the work and develop the streanth and moves to improve and just maybe he knew he just did not have it. Jones was a the so called best of a very bad OLB draft class that year. The first round of the draft that year was filled with misses.

  • Boots

    Harrison wasn’t around for the first year and few games of Jarvis’ career. Hopefully this kid is a fast learner

  • WreckIess

    I don’t think that’s true either. I was one of Jarvis’s biggest naysayers, but even I have to admit that he’s not lazy. He worked out with Deebo, Shaz, VW and everyone else out in Arizona and he developed some strength. The problem was that he was just unathletic and just plain sucked.

  • Mark G Hunter

    I agree. But like Wreckless stated, he did train with Harrison and did get stronger. But then did he work to try to improve his rush skils? Look at Dupree, he went and worked with Chuck Smith, the pass rushing guru to get better. Jones could have used that. And If anything, I thought that the coaching staff could have moved him inside. But they had VW waiting in the wings to replace Timmons. So they knew that, he probably wanted to get a chance to start. So they let him go.

  • MC

    Better chance than Feeney last year?
    It’s kinda looking that way but I have no idea to be honest..

  • Matthew Marczi

    Definitely a better chance. Feeney didn’t have the size, experience, or injury history to make him a year-one option. Adams is closer to that and a more natural player for the edge.

  • Conserv_58

    You hit the nail on the head in regards to Jarvice’s fall from grace. It is patently obvious that Colbert and the defensive coaches were too blinded and enamoured with Jarvice’s college stats to see the obvious and true story that his combine numbers told. It’s not Jarvice’s fault that Colbert and company failed to properly evaluate him and then over drafted him. The truth being, Jarvice is an unremarkable football player that was mischaracterized as being an elite talent.

  • Conserv_58

    Adams does have the one aspect to his game that outside linebacking coaches desire most and that is he has exceptional bend coming around the end. That attribute alone separates him from the Freeney’s of the league. He’s already ahead of where Jarvice Jones was at this point. It also is the one trait that all good pass rushers have. James Harrison has it and so did under valued sixth round pick, Greg Lloyd. All he needs is to spend time with Joey Porter and learn how to adapt different pass rushing moves to his game. He may be a bit underdeveloped, but he shows the signs of becoming a very good pass rusher.

  • MC

    Awesome. I’ll be watching him pretty attentively during preseason, hopefully he’s another steal like the two legends you mentioned.

  • Dshoff

    Actually I’m very curious to see if Dupree has learned to lean into the Offensive tackle when rushing the qb. That’s the one thing that would take him to the next level.


    This ^^^^^!

    For a guy that saw nearly every UGA game Jones played and heard all the reports of him not being much of a practice player…he didn’t bring that attitude with him to PIT…he gave it 100%. IMO, he was actually a pretty good football player, but simply not a pass rusher at this level…..totally miscast as an elite talent.

    It’s pretty clear that Tomlin/Colbert have learned their lesson…they are now focused on athletic prowess that might need to be coached up to be great football players at this level.

  • Conserv_58

    It looked as though, Bud was doing much better in his bend. He still gets a little too upright sometimes. When he does it allows offensive tackles to run him up the arc and take him out of the play. Adams bends instinctively. He doesn’t even think about it. I’d love to hear from Joey what he thinks of Adams potential. Adams may be a seventh round pick, but as I said already, he’s got aspects to his game that Jarvice never had and never will have.

  • Conserv_58

    I’m going to be at training camp again this year and I’m stoked to watch Martavis back on the field, the new draft picks and the free agents. I betting there will be a memorial to Mr. Rooney at some point. I love the Friday Night Under The Lights practice at Latrobe stadium. I’m hoping I planned my hotel reservations for the right week. I’ll find out tomorrow when they release the training camp schedule.

  • Kelly A

    Just to add to what you said. I did a video study on Keion Adams; aside from his footwork (deriving from his basketball background), his ability to bend the edge is just beautiful to watch; I can tell you that the only OLB on the Steelers that has his level of hip flexibility is James Harrison himself. I’ll go as far as saying that very few OLBs in that entire 2017 draft class has his type of bend. That unique quality is one of many reasons why I believe he’ll make the roster, even if it’s to start at Special teams.

  • MC

    Enjoy bro!

  • Conserv_58

    Tomlin and Colbert should have never been so single minded in their evaluation of Jarvice in the first place, especially, Colbert since it’s his job to evaluate talent. I would have thought that Colbert learned his lesson after drafting monumental bust, Alonzo Jackson.

  • Steeler83

    If you have to choose 2 guys between Moats, Adams and Chickillo, who would choose you ?