Sometimes among the most significant players of interest after a game are those who did not play. And after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season opener, and the performance by Arthur Moats, I’m thinking that rookie seventh-round outside linebacker Keion Adams is getting awfully interested in getting back on the field as soon as possible.
If he was not before, Moats is certainly the favorite to make the roster between the two of them following Friday night’s showing, during which he recorded an interception and three sacks in addition to a couple of other notable pressures on the quarterback, even if much of that work came against second-string offensive linemen.
The Steelers have, I believe, already four roster spots at the outside linebackers position locked up. At a minimum, they have three. Bud Dupree is expected to take a big step forward in his third season at the left outside linebacker position, while James Harrison remains a presence on the blind side, and rookie first-round draft pick T.J. Watt will be getting a lot of work as well, from the looks of it.
Behind those three players, there is third-year Anthony Chickillo, who has over the course of his first two seasons been able to carve out a valuable role for himself on special teams. He even started several games last season after passing Moats on the depth chart while Dupree was still injured.
Because Moats is not as important a part of the special teams units as Chickillo—and because he seemingly fell behind the others on the depth chart—his spot from last season figures to be the most vulnerable, which has fostered the notion of a roster battle between himself and the Steelers’ other rookie outside linebacker in Adams.
But as they say, you can’t make the club from the tub, and right now, the Western Michigan product is nursing an injured shoulder. There is no clarity at the moment with respect to the severity of the injury and how much more time he will have to miss, but all of the practices that he is missing—and especially the games—are critical opportunities for him to get ahead.
While camp reports have indicated that Adams did show up well, the simple fact of the matter is that his roster spot is going to have to be earned by demonstrating that he can perform, and be trusted, on special teams, and that is not something that can be sufficiently replicated on the practice field.
He had better hope that he will not be out for much longer and will be able to take part in special teams by the Steelers’ next preseason game, because if he doesn’t start making headway, he is not going to make the 53-man roster. Not that sitting on the practice squad for a year would be the worst thing, but it would be unfortunate for the Steelers should they ultimately lose him.