Pittsburgh drafted Mike Adams in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft to be their left tackle of the future. Four games into his inaugural season as Roethlisberger's blind side protector Adams has not shown he is up to par. He has exceptional length for a tackle and adequate foot speed but as of now it is the subtleties of the position that elude Adams.
The initial footwork out of the the stance is the most vital aspect of an offensive tackles play. There is a mistaken idea that OTs have to slide out in a type of circular motion to establish the pocket. Instead of this elite tackles understands that against speed rushers kick sliding back allows them to get maximum depth while not giving up the edge. To be able to succeed in as a LT it take the awareness of knowing when to slide out and when you need to slide back from reading the defender. Up to this point Adams has not shown this awareness or the understanding of footwork.
This first play highlights Adams' poor understanding of his footwork. At the snap Adams' first step is with his left foot forward instead of backwards. In doing this he is moving parallel across the line of scrimmage toward the defensive end rather than maintain the depth of his drop. Since he didn't get depth Jared Allen the defensive end is able to get past him. Adams has to open up his hips and hustle to get to Allen. In this case Allen has the advantage and can turn the corner. Luckily for Adams the play is a quick pass and Allen can't get to the QB with an outside angle he initially chose. On the next play however Adams isn't as lucky.
Adams once again in this play takes a step up with his back foot. This prevents him from getting initial depth and for a speed rusher like Allen gives him an easy win. In order to get depth quickly to fix his mistake Adams has to open his hips and becomes perpendicular to the line of scrimmage. Doing so gives Allen the advantage. Adams then attempts to punch Allen. He telegraphs his punch because his hands are not up by his chest and he leans in on the punch. Since he telegraphs his punch Allen is prepared for it, he parries it and pull him forward and off balance. Adams is beat badly and Allen cleans up for an easy sack.
One step out of place was all it takes for Adams to lose his 1-on-1 battle in the NFL. It is more than just one step though. In most of Adams drops he fails to react to the defensive ends movement. If he feels the defender tries to go out side he will immediately open his hip to prevent it. However this is not how an outside move should be blocked. He needs take his first step backwards to maintain depth. Then he needs to read the defender. If the defender shows hesitation he can choose to drop at more of a 45 degree angle while maintaining a good stance and balance. If the defender shows a speed rush he should continue the kick slide straight back to get maximum depth while maintaining his balance. This takes a certain amount of foot quickness but Adams should at least attempt this before opening up and turning.
Not every sack is Adams fault though. In the last few games the opposing defenses have been attacking the Steelers' blocking schemes.
In this play the Steelers are in the Shotgun on third down. The Viking are showing a blitz by their LB between the LG and LT. In the called blocking scheme the RB is responsible for the LB while the LT is responsible for the RE. This blocking scheme is vulnerable to the stunt. At the snap the LB attacks Adams who is solely focused on the RE. Bell recognizes the stunt and looks to pick up the RE (poorly). Adams is in no position to keep the LB from releasing and getting to the QB. The play results in a sack.
I am not a fan of this type of blocking scheme. I believe that the RB should be responsible for the outside guys and that the tackle should be concerned with the linebacker showing blitz. If the linebacker bails out than Adams can go to the right end and help.
The Steelers are missing the little details in their pass blocking. Whether it is scheme or individual play Pittsburgh is not performing well in this area. The left tackle spot seems to be the biggest culprit. At this point Adams has all the tools to but still struggles. He will continue to struggle until he improves his footwork and his ability to read the defensive ends pass rush. Perhaps it may be best that the Steelers traded for Levi Brown. While Brown is not a good pass blocker either, he won't continuously make the mental mistakes that come from inexperience that Adams continues to make.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Why the Levi Brown trade makes sense
- Kevin Colbert can't win
- State of the Steelers at quarter season mark
- Markus Wheaton broke his pinkie against Vikings
- 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
- A summarized history of the career of Mike Adams
- 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