There were lots of links between the Steelers and Mike Adams after his final year at Ohio State came to an end - with Adams on suspension for accepting gifts from outside sources.
The Steelers were selecting 24th in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, and some had placed the highly athletic Adams over to his hometown team. That plan went somewhat awry when Adams tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine that February.
Adams drove to Pittsburgh following that news, and reportedly pleaded with Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert to not take him off their draft board completely. To whatever end that worked, the Steelers took Adams with the 56th overall pick.
It was easy to pencil Adams in as the starting left tackle in recently hired offensive coordinator Todd Haley's offense, which would move Marcus Gilbert back to right tackle, on the outside of rookie David DeCastro, who was the 24th overall pick that year.
It never happened.
Adams looked every bit the rookie against Philadelphia in a preseason game at left tackle. Going against the Eagles second-teamers, Adams surrendered pressure constantly, appearing ill-prepared and forcing the Steelers into action. Veteran Max Starks was signed and immediately plugged into the starting role, just eight months removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL he suffered in a January playoff loss at Denver.
Adams never played on the left side again, but eventually filled in for Gilbert, who was injured mid-season, and played a reasonably decent right tackle until Adams suffered a season-ending injury in Week 12.
Expectations rose for the athletic Adams, who seemingly brushed off his sluggish start with solid play on the right side. The initial plan seemed to be to keep Adams on the right side, and move Gilbert over to the left to replace the departing Starks.
Adams was stabbed in a scuffle on Pittsburgh's South Side in the early hours of June 1. It was something of a bizarre set of details, but Adams was hanging out by his truck at or around 3 a.m. when three men allegedly approached him, wanting to steal his vehicle. A fight broke out that left Adams stabbed in the abdomen and forearm - the former injury requiring surgery. He missed all of the team's organized practices leading into training camp but was with the team when they arrived at St. Vincent's College in Latrobe, Pa.
Adams began on the right side but would eventually be moved over to left tackle, with Gilbert moving back to right. It was a largely monotone move by the team, not providing the level of ceremony one might expect from that big of a change-up. On one hand, the team had two offensive tackles who apparently were versatile enough to play either tackle position and the team was simply putting them where they fit the best. On the other, they had two young tackles with varying levels of experience going along side a generally young offensive line.
That line did not perform well during four Steelers' preseason losses, and it lost its best player, center Maurkice Pouncey, eight plays into the 2013 season when a missed cut block attempt by right guard David DeCastro landed on Pouncey's knee, tearing the ACL and MCL. Second-year back-up Kelvin Beachum finished the game with very poor results, leading the team to sign free agent center Fernando Velasco and plug him in at center before the Steelers' Week 2 game against Cincinnati.
While Velasco was an upgrade over Beachum, the results still were not outstanding, and the Steelers lost their second straight game.
Adams continued to struggle on the left side, being beaten badly and often by Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson. By Week 3 against Chicago, the rest of the offensive line appeared more comfortable and aware against the tough front seven of the Chicago Bears, but Adams was again overwhelmed, allowing constant pressure in a game that saw the Steelers lose three fumbles, including two by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, caused by guys Adams was assigned to block.
Week 4 didn't show much change. The Steelers offensive line improved again with the exception of Adams, who was charged with allowing three sacks in the game - it's arguable the total was really four.
Word came down in Pittsburgh the Steelers had traded a conditional late draft pick for Cardinals OT Levi Brown - who, incidentally, seems to be struggling as much as Adams is this year - just hours after a report surfaced that Adams would be benched in favor of fellow-2012 draft class member Beachum.
While it's not a lock Brown starts in Week 6 when the Steelers head to New York for a game against the Jets, it definitely won't be Adams making the start.
"It's a business," Adams told Post-Gazette reporter Ray Fittipaldo Wednesday after practice. "If we're not getting the job done, they have to do what they have to do. I'll just continue to try to get better and keep competing."
Adams references "we," but he's the only one getting benched. And judging by the considerable strides this offense has made since Pouncey's injury, the argument can be made Adams' struggles in his 1-on-1s is weighing down what could potentially be an outstanding offense. The emergence of Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown has made them one of the most formidable QB/WR combinations in the league through four games. Rookie Le'Veon Bell had 84 yards on 20 touches and two touchdowns in his debut - just five weeks removed from a foot injury. The return of tight ends Heath Miller and David Johnson have given the Steelers viable options in the run and pass protection areas, and Miller, in two games, has nine catches.
Still, considering Brown is on the hook for $6 million next season, odds are very low he's anything more than a rent-a-player right now, especially since the Cardinals are reportedly picking up $3 million of his remaining $3.6 million salary this year. It's a minimal cap hit for the Steelers, and a low draft pick with which the team could do far worse than Brown, or even Adams.
Or maybe not. Time will tell, but some kind of move needed to be made.
And how Adams responds and grows from this - he's still most likely the team's future starting left tackle - will determine what kind of player Adams will become because of this.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Markus Wheaton had surgery on broken pinkie
- STEELERS TRADE: Deal finalized with Cardinals for OT Levi Brown
- Levi Brown trade: Everything we know
- Steelers Film Room: No margin for error in Week 4
- Meet Levi Brown, the newest Steelers player
- Levi Brown renegotiated his contract, will make veteran minimum
- Isaiah Green released
- Why the Steelers may be in denial
- Cardinals 'rejoice' over trade
- Cardinals were prepared to cut Levi Brown before trading him to Pittsburgh
- Adams benched for Beachum
- Beachum's long, winding road
- Rams release Max Starks as Ravens trade for Eugene Monroe Follow @NealCoolong