Mike Munchak: 'I think you're going to see the best offensive line play' the next few years

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers offensive line coach counts on the development of offensive linemen over the first three years of their careers. Since the majority of the Steelers' starters are in that age range, Munchak expects the best days this line will have start in 2014.

PITTSBURGH -- The past year has gone by without much fanfare, but who could blame Mike Adams for keeping it in the past.

Adams didn't make it to this point in spring practice last year after he was knifed in the stomach and arm in an early morning incident that required surgery to repair the damage.

Adams recovered physically, but his career quickly derailed. He went from having a prominent role on the Steelers offensive line to a backup spot that had him used as an additional blocker in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Neither he nor the Steelers envisioned that when Adams was selected in the second round during the 2012 NFL Draft.

"I didn't come here to sit on the bench,'' Adams said. "I came here to compete. Last year was pretty bad, and it definitely didn't go where I wanted it to go. But I'm ready to move on to a new part of my career.

"I feel fine, physically, and that's what I care about the most. All the rest of it, I don't know. But I'm just here to play football and compete. I'm really not worried about all that other stuff.''

All that other stuff, the incident that Adams testified was an attempted robbery, involved three men who recently were acquitted of all charges. Adams gets a new start this year, as do the other Steelers offensive linemen, as new coach Mike Munchak became the group's third position coach in three years.

"I knew most of these guys,'' Munchak said. "I've studied them, watched them. I remember when (center Maurkice) Pouncey got drafted, I said, ‘Man, they got a great one there.' He's doing well, I think he's right on target to what they thought he would be. He's very excited about playing again.

"He's been to all the meetings. He's been on the field running around. We pretty much are just going to have to control him from not being too excited as we get into camp, because it's a long way to go before the opener. But he looks good. Everything's optimistic. He's the leader (and) the guy they all look to.''

Munchak believed that the Steelers have a great deal to look forward to where their offensive line is concerned.

"I think there are a lot of guys coming into their best years,'' Munchak said. "I always tell guys their fourth year, their fifth year, their sixth year are where they understand the league now. That's where (guard) David (DeCastro) is right now (third year).

"That's where Pouncey is right now (fifth year). That's where (tackle Marcus) Gilbert is right now (fourth year). I think you're going to see the best offensive line play, hopefully, that we have going forward for the next handful of years.''

Adams and Kelvin Beachum, who replaced Adams at left tackle after the fourth game last season, are third-year NFL players. Beachum and Adams couldn't be more different. The 6-foot-7 Adams uses brute force to handle opposing defensive linemen, while the 6-foot-3 Beachum uses leverage and a solid blocking technique to beat the opposition.

Beachum has not relinquished the starting left tackle spot during spring drills, but no one expected that to happen. They also didn't expect Beachum, a seventh-round pick, to supplant Adams for the long term.

"I have to keep doing all the things that I did to get to this point, and that's working hard and paying attention to detail,'' Beachum said. "I try to stay after practice as much as possible and keep working hard. That's what got me this far, and it's what is going to keep me going in the future.''

The Steelers expect to use the zone-blocking scheme that they scrapped when Pouncey was injured during the season-opening series last year. Munchak talked about it.

"It'll be a part of our offense,'' Munchak said. "There's not much more to it, (and) it'll add to what we've done last year as an offense. It's something we're very capable of doing with the type of offensive linemen we have. That's the nice thing about getting versatile guys who can run, a guy like DeCastro who can pull and do some things, (and) Beachum can run as a tackle.

"Pouncey can obviously do just about anything you want him to do as a center. There are a lot of options to what we can do, and that's what we're exploring. My job as line coach is to figure out what (we) do best, and then make that part of the offense. The outside-zone will easily be part of the equation. There's a place for that scheme that will allow us to be more productive.''

And protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger better than ever, which also will allow the Steelers offense to be even more productive.

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