The Pittsburgh chapter of the Pro Football Writers' Association recognized two Steelers on Thursday. One was rewarded for his actions on the football field, while the other was applauded for his actions off of it.
Casey Hampton was presented with the PFWA's "The Chief Award" in recognition of Hampton's cooperation with the media during the 2012 season. This award is presented to one player yearly, in honor of "The Chief", Art Rooney.
Mike Adams was awarded the PFWA's "Joe Greene Great Performance Award" for his performances as a rookie in 2012. This award is presented to an outstanding rookie each season.
Hampton has been a staple of the Steelers consistently dominant defense during his 12 seasons as the primary nose tackle. His presence has consistently demanded the attention of opposing offenses, especially when they attempted to run the ball. Hampton has arguably been the best player at his position for the Steelers since their transition to the 3-4 defense. Hampton's 2012 season got off to a shaky start as injury forced him to miss most of training camp and the preseason. He played in every game this season, though he visibly took several weeks to work himself into "game shape" as he struggled to get his "grown man strength" back.
Hampton will be an unrestricted free agent next season, and has voiced his opinion on the situation. While his first choice would be to remain in Pittsburgh, he acknowledges the fact that they may have other plans or cannot afford him. The Steelers have numerous positions to address this offseason, and are unlikely to offer him any more than the minimum salary regulated by the CBA ($940,000). Hampton has not expressed whether his preference to remain the Steelers was strong enough to take that much of a pay cut from his 2012 salary of $4,966,667. If the Steelers do not offer him a contract at all, he said he will play for anyone that does want him.
Another player that shares Hampton's feelings on the subject, is Max Starks. Starks will also be an unrestricted free agent in 2013, and does not want to be a backup behind Marcus Gilbert, or Adams. Starks, who has played for veteran minimum the past 2 seasons, is apparently unwilling to accept the same type of offer ($940,000) to ride the bench. He does not say that he would expect more money if he were able to retain his starting job, but he realizes that Adams became the fourth offensive lineman taken by the Steelers in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft over the past three seasons, and the second tackle. He understands the Steelers expect their investments to play, and that the team may be content with Adams and Gilbert at the starting positions. If the Steelers fail to offer Starks a contract, he also will play for whoever wants him, like Hampton.
If Starks is allowed to leave, Adams will be expected to continue to improve and impress as he did in the ten games he played this season, starting six of them at right tackle. With Starks gone, Adams would be a full-time starter in his second season. Sounds like a job suitable for the Steelers rookie of the year.
While the Steelers surely would have liked Adams to get at least an entire season under his belt before asking him to replace Starks, the fact that he will start at all is quite the accomplishment for a young man who was almost passed over in the NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers for "character issues", let alone to be their rookie of the year. Adams approached the Steelers prior to the draft and made certain promises regarding the issues in question and his work ethic moving forward.
Apparently, the Steelers and the local Pittsburgh media feel Mike Adams is making good on those promises.