Steelers OTAs: Offensive line gets in Football in Shorts reps with a starter out, just like the regular season

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

The Steelers offensive line has experienced more combinations of starters than any other unit in the league. Mike Adams' absence from the final session of OTAs - which begin today in Pittsburgh - gives them some practice in an area they know well.

If Organized Team Activities (OTAs) are little more than dress rehearsals for training camp, the Steelers are ensuring theirs are as realistic as possible.

Whatever it is that happened Saturday on the South Side that led to the stabbing and subsequent planning of six weeks without offensive tackle Mike Adams, it's another issue in which the team's ability to handle adversity will be tested.

That isn't exactly a new thing. Most of the Steelers' starters eventually earned their current positions due to injury at one point or another.

Steelers players, offensive linemen in particular, have found themselves on the wrong side of setbacks in recent years. Whether it's Maurkice Pouncey's broken ankle suffered in the AFC Championship game or it's something happening to Willie Colon, the offensive linemen in particular shouldn't create shock among fans regarding an injury that will keep any number of them sidelined.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's mantra is "Next Man Up," and the the team will once again put that to the test as the third and final installment of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) get started in Pittsburgh Monday (formal practice was cancelled today, per Ed Bouchette, and Tomlin will have the team partake in a team activity like bowling instead).

Clearly, Adams' injury is the main issue. Perhaps the only issue.

His non-attendance means little in the grand scheme, outside of being on hand to continue building that cohesion and familiarity that's critical within a zone running scheme, but to dip into Mike Tomlin's bag 'o phrases, Football in Shorts isn't reality. It does count for something, though, and the fact the Steelers' offensive line has had more variation in week-to-week starters than any other unit in the NFL shows Adams injury is really just par for the course, and gives the Steelers the opportunity to embrace a live scenario even with fake football.

With a combination of Guy Whimper and Kelvin Beachum taking over first team snaps at right tackle in Adams' absence at these voluntary practices (as well as the mandatory minicamp scheduled to run from June 11-13 in Pittsburgh), the team will get a look at its bench strength at offensive tackle, not a position that figured to be one of the deeper ones it had. Clearly, things are not ideal if Whimper is starting at right tackle (or left tackle, for that matter), but the team may as well get another taste of inserting a new linemen into the mix on the fly.

It's happened pretty much every game week since Colon blew out his Achilles in May of 2010, and while it's certainly possible that "prepare for the worst" mentality may be overblown, Football in Shorts should accomplish something.

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