Why the Levi Brown trade works for the Steelers

Norm Hall

The trade works for the Steelers, simply because it gives them a better chance of simply drawing a neutral match-up at their left tackle position.

This is really about subtraction as opposed to addition.

Mike Adams has played very poorly, no doubt, and I agreed with the idea of sitting him down. But he's 24 years old. I wasn't good at ANYthing when I was 24. I get that he's a professional athlete, but they don't all come ready-made from a box. Regardless of how high they're drafted, the learning curve is unique to the individual. He looks lost and is playing without any confidence.

You do the same thing with him the Steelers did with Bradshaw (relative to today's standards, not the 70s). Have the coach work him into the ground and be hard on him, then have ownership/general management give him the bigger picture support. Sit him, and have Colbert tell him, as the Chief often told Brad, "You're the best!"

Regardless of what people think about Adams as a football player, Adams is a very high-level athlete. You can't just disregard that after four games with his second offensive line coach in two years as a pro. He needs to mature and get to work, no doubt, but it's not even close to the time to cast him off.

That's also exactly why you bring Brown in. He's getting the same treatment in Arizona, just with a much longer history of it. He's been beaten down, but if I'm his agent, I'm telling him, "let's start over somewhere fresh (never doubt the power of change) and see if we can't improve a little bit."

It won't take much for him to be a hero here. Look at Max Starks - it's hard to define his play after the 2007 season as anything BUT mediocre, and he was really bad last year, but people STILL want him back. That's a really tough position to play, but coaches (Tomlin in particular) bring in veterans all the time, because frankly not every team can pay Joe Thomas quarterback money to play the position at the highest of high levels both physically and mentally. You're not getting the physically outstanding player in free agency, so you try to get a passable one but with high mental acumen there until you can find a long-term solution - which you simply cannot do any more without drafting one who will get the tar kicked out of him when he's young.

Simply put, draft in the top five and get a complete freak (i.e. Thomas), or find a continued string of veterans who can fill in at an adequate level until you can get one to develop.

The Ravens haven't had even an above average left tackle since Ogden. They look to have picked one up Wednesday, and they have to trade two middle round picks for a guy without a contract in 2014 to play 12 games this year - solely because they gambled in thinking they could give McKinnie money and get the same level of play from him they did last year. The Ravens do not operate in stupidity, but they had to sit his fat ass down for the second half of the year to stay rested for the playoffs, and they still signed him back for 2013.

Why? Because they didn't have a choice. Since McKinnie reverted to his pre-contract-year form, they had to make a move for Eugene Monroe. And ya know what? It was a smart move. Looks what's happened to them in the run game the last four weeks.

The Brown trade is a smaller version of that. Purely speculation, but based on logic and observation, Adams looks like he has no flippin' clue what he's doing. We don't even have an idea of how good or bad he is, because he's beaten before the snap so often. Maybe Brown is in the right position, but is simply being beaten physically.

That's not reassuring, nor is it meant to be. It's a legit question, though. Which would you rather have? Physical errors, or mental ones? Simply being inadequate, or not giving yourself a chance because you keep screwing up?

You can cover up inadequacies if you know they're there. We have no idea what we're getting from Mike Adams on a play-by-play basis. He's too wide, he's too narrow, he seems to think there's a tight end to his left, he reaches for a linebacker who isn't there. We probably would have seen him try to take a handoff by Week 9.

I'm going to guess Haley feels Brown never had substantial issues with understanding his offense, and Pittsburgh's offensive line played well enough - yes, it did - over the last two games to suggest they could have won both of those games, if not for the large amount of 1-on-1 losses Adams had.

Let's remove the mental mistakes, and maybe Jared Allen - one of the best pass rushers of his generation - simply overpowers Levi Brown (his numbers against Allen are shockingly bad, incidentally). Maybe he gets two sacks, but doesn't get three. The Vikings get three sacks instead of five. The Steelers have one less turnover, one more explosive rushing play.

Are they not competing in those games if that's the case?

I know that's a long string of "What Ifs," but to me, that's really what this trade is about. Football is a collection of 1-on-1 plays that make up a team performance over 60 or so snaps. When you have one player who is constantly losing those 1-on-1s, there's no margin for error.

The Steelers' defense is a perfect example of that. Troy Polamalu has to play a perfect game against the run because Vince Williams is woefully inadequate. Williams got ABUSED by the Vikings' power draw. Jerome Felton is an outstanding fullback. Williams got beat by him Every. Bleeping. Snap. So Polamalu has to make every play. He misses a tackle, and boom. There ya go. Cortez Allen, same thing. Ryan Clark had to go from defending the far side deep hash to trying to make a tackle on a receiver after a five-yard hitch. Same with Clark on Peterson's run.

They can't make any mistakes, but they're going to. When one guy consistently cannot do his job, everyone else has to do theirs AND make an above-average play to help cover up the deficiency. It's only a matter of time until that breaks down.

Simply put, you are as strong as your weakest link in this game, and based on that, the Steelers - with two of the league's worst players having to play significant snaps - are 0-4. It's not about getting Joe Thomas, though, it's about not having Mike Adams (in his current, less aware form). If Brown is an improvement on Adams from a mental end, I can honestly see this team scoring 40 or more against the Jets - who also have significant deficiencies on their line, including Mr. Colon, who's going to get a steady dose of Jarvis Jones in his gap.

So...if we're talking about the general evaluation of this trade, the Steelrs got a veteran tackle to replace a young one, and have to pay a few more bucks to do it. But if that veteran tackle can even just be four or five plays a game better than Adams, I'd strongly suggest starting Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell in Fantasy, because the Steelers have match-up advantages that have been covered up by inadequate play at left tackle. If they get a neutral draw at left tackle for the first time this year? Advantage: Steelers.

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