This is the third and final piece to my thoughts about the offensive line and the Steelers draft to address it. Sorry to piecemeal this thing, but all the clutter in my head needed more than one manuscript. You can read the first part here. You can read the second part here.
Enter Mike Adams, a mid-first-round talent who fell to the bottom of round two. He had a couple scrapes during his junior year with drugs and team rules at Ohio State, causing a two-game suspension. This past year has been disastrous. Adams was suspended for five games for his involvement in the Ohio State memorabilia/tattoo scandal - and then things got worse. He went to the NFL Combine in February totally unprepared. His bench press was awful and then he flunked a drug test. Does it get any worse?
When he reached the nadir of his football life, Adams apparently (hopefully) had a come-to-Jesus experience. What he did was unprecedented, and interestingly, only with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The native of Farrell, PA and lifelong Steelers fan hopped in his car and drove back home. He requested a meeting with Art Rooney II, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin. Though he was told he was off the Steelers draft board, Adams talked and promised his way back on to it. Stipulations were made and ultimatums were issued. When it came time for the Steelers to pick #56, they chose Adams.
Reactions from Steeler Nation ranged from North Pole to South Pole. There were those who were angry and embarrassed and disagreed completely with the pick. Others were ecstatic with the notion of getting first-round talent at a low second-round price, especially at an area of great need. Many in the Nation were feeling some combination of both emotions. Regardless of where you landed on the continuum, I completely respect your position. Last I checked this was still America and you are allowed to think however you like.
That said, the truth of the matter is that in the NFL, character is an economic issue, not a moral issue. To prove that character is not a moral issue, do you really think that any of the other 31 NFL teams would have passed on Mike Adams in the seventh round? Yes, Colbert said that Adams was "off the board," but do you take that literally? Do you really believe that if Adams had not made that drive across Interstate 70 that the Steelers would have passed on him and taken Kevin Beachum in the last round? Do you believe the Browns would have taken Brad Smelley over Adams? Or the Ravens would have taken DeAngelo Tyson? Or the Bengals would have taken Dan Herron? Oh wait, I forgot, Herron was also suspended five games over Tattoogate.
At some point in the draft, every NFL team would have made the decision to draft Adams. Each team had its own selection point., depending on round, placement in round, need at position, comparison to other needs and comparison to other options available at the time. The fact that Pittsburgh took Adams before anyone else does not make them any less moral. It simply means that the price point fell to them sooner than anyone else. Three factors stood out. First, Pittsburgh drafted toward the end of that second round after that critical mass of 50 "safer" players had been selected. Second, the Steelers glaring need at the offensive tackle position factored into the risk, and third, the fact that Adams begged the Steelers and no one else surely skewed his cause toward them more than the others.
So now Adam is one of us, for better or worse. Like every draftee, there is risk involved - injury risk, adjustment risk, motivation risk, talent risk and character risk. Obviously Adams brings more character risk into the equation than David Decastro, but unlike injury risk, character is something a player can control. If Adams stays clean and motivated and pans out athletically, the Steelers will have won that individual gamble. If he stays a pothead, we come up snake eyes. We've lost second-round battles before, most notably Limas Sweed. And we're still not sure about Jason Worilds. Compared to those two, I think I'll take my chances on Adams.
There are those who believe that Adams is a project. I disagree. With occasional exception, the NFL has changed to the point where players drafted in the first couple rounds are expected to start right away. NFL teams cannot afford to bring top draftees along slowly and then see them blossom when they are about to become free agents. Adams is a first-round talent who happened to fall into the second round due to character reasons. I expect him to challenge right away for the starting left tackle position. His forte, what he does as good as anyone in this draft, is pass block. Scouts Inc. rated him "exceptional." A couple years ago Art Rooney himself said that the Steelers needed to catch up to the rest of the league in terms of getting their young players on the field sooner. Last year Marcus Gilbert, not rated nearly as well as Adams, didn't waste alot of time being a project. I certainly don't expect Adams, as long as he stays clean and works hard, to be any more of a project than Gilbert, who started in his rookie year.
I am thrilled that my Pittsburgh Steelers put their money where their mouth is regarding the offensive line. They bet some chips on Mike Adams, granted, but that is fine by me. All 874 mock drafts that I saw had Adams leaving the board much sooner than #56. Many pundits, including Ed Bouchette, had Adams among the handful of options for Pittsburgh at #24. And we get him #56? If this guy takes his second chance seriously, the Steelers might in essence end up with two first-round draft picks, both on the offensive line that many of us scream about. If it doesn't work out, you won't hear a peep out of me. I'm all in.