Time has come for the Steelers to make a change

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes a player taking a spot on the bench and learning how to wave a towel in support of his teammates can help his growth. The Steelers may not remove coaches, but it removes players all the time. Perhaps it's time to sit Mike Adams down and try something else.

The point has been made into the ground. Odds of hearing a bit during national broadcasts of Steelers games about how the Steelers have had three head coaches since 1969 are good to outstanding.

Is it a coincidence that streak started the last time the Steelers started a season 0-4 (it grew to 0-6)?

This isn't a history lesson, nor is it further propagating tired rhetoric about how "this franchise has a way of doing things," or "they treat their coaches better than that." All of that sounds nice, but let's be realistic. While the team is more than willing to stick with their coaches - a behavior that can be seen as admirable if forced to choose between it and the alternative - it clearly is not going to stick with its players if those players aren't performing.

Nor should it.

It's impossible at this point to suggest the team's decision to stick with Mike Adams at left tackle is anything more than a combination of being stuck between a rock and a hard place, and stubborn insistence he is, at this point in his career, a blown draft pick.

Let's keep in mind, the Steelers had ample reason not to draft the quick-footed but slow-minded tackle out of Ohio State. He flunked a drug test at the NFL Combine in 2012, leading him to drive to Pittsburgh to beg Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert not to take him off his draft board.

Due to Adams' athleticism and physical gifts, he was seen as a potential first round pick. Offensive tackles in the first round have a wider range of outcomes than any other position - for every Joe Thomas, there's five Sam Bakers. But guys with that size and athleticism will be taken highly in the draft, without fail. The fact Adams fell all the way to the second round shows how much that failed drug test bothered the rest of the league.

Not the Steelers, though. So compelled by his visit, apparently, they selected Adams, putting together what felt like the final piece of an offensive line overhaul meant to protect their franchise quarterback in the waning years of his career. Also, it might bring about the lost art of rushing the football to a high level.

The Steelers' struggles on the ground this year aren't exactly rare - the AFC North is now chock-full of teams that cannot run. Baltimore rushed nine time for 24 yards in a loss to Buffalo. Cincinnati and Cleveland combined for 152 rushing yards in what is a grind-it-out figure compared to what the Ravens and Steelers did in their losses.

What is rare, however, is continuing to play an offensive tackle who doesn't appear to know or understand which end is up. The Steelers didn't hook their plows to Marcus Gilbert the same way they did Adams. Gilbert was the first player to be yanked in favor of super-sub Kelvin Beachum, and Gilbert has been considerably better this season than Adams has.

To be fair, Adams was expected to be on a rotation with Beachum against the Vikings in Week 4, but an injury to left guard Ramon Foster pushed Beachum to left guard - his fifth position this season. If Foster is ok, it's possible Beachum moves over to left tackle in Week 6 after the bye against the Jets.

But if he doesn't, how else are fans supposed to take the decision to keep him out there? Sadism? Fear of losing face?

Maybe it's just simply time for a character-building moment. He doesn't need to be released, taken out behind the barn and put out of his misery. He's shown at times to be a pretty solid tackle, particularly in the run game. But his constant mental lapses are destroying the flow of an offense that, despite all public opinion, has been performing considerably better from where it started, and looks to continue that streak as the season progresses.

Gilbert didn't fail a drug test before the Combine, hence his lack of reason to drive to Pittsburgh to beg to be selected. Maybe it's an attitude thing. Gilbert was benched his rookie year for failure to prepare the week leading into a game against St. Louis.

He misses a meeting or is screwing around in practice, he gets benched. Adams has allowed, according to Pro Football Focus, 12 quarterback hurries, six hits on the quarterback and four sacks - including three Sunday against the Vikings, the last one being a forced fumble that ended the Steelers' furious rally. Those numbers seem a bit off until you remember the enormous amount of plays made in the backfield by Bengals DE Michael Johnson came against the run.

Adams is an equal opportunity failure through four games. It also doesn't appear his job is in significant jeopardy, because the team only has one reserve lineman who will play - and he plays six positions.

If the team doesn't want to make a move with the coaching staff, that's fine. But if any decision moving forward to keep Adams where he is leaves that entire notion subject to criticism - they're willing to stick with guys to help them improve, even if their enormous learning curve comes at the detriment of the team.

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