Recently, ESPN targeted a position where a hole resides which each NFL team needs to fill. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, they suggested the outside linebacker/pass rusher position as the team’s biggest need still remaining. You can certainly make a case for this on the Steelers roster. After all, when looking at the depth chart it doesn’t scream “bookend pass rushers” like the days when James Harrison, Joey Porter and LaMarr Woodley were harassing opposing quarterbacks.
Then, as I sat down to look at the team’s roster a name popped off the screen. The name was a familiar one, considering General Manager Kevin Colbert had just labeled him as the “other” seventh round draft pick they would have on the team this year.
None other than outside linebacker Keion Adams, the team’s 7th round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Could the Western Michigan product actually be an answer for the Steelers? Considering he hasn’t stepped foot on an NFL field as a uniformed player, suggesting such a thing would seem ludicrous. So I went online and found some film of Adams in his final year at Western Michigan.
Take a look for yourself:
This is a small sample size, but a few things certainly pop off the screen when watching him play. First, he is fast and athletic. This will be when things turn south for many readers, but he reminds me of Bud Dupree. However, his pass rushing skills, especially his bend, seem to be far better than Dupree’s — and this was two years ago. Next, he is able to play both sides of the field. He isn’t strictly a left edge rusher, or vice versa, but can move around the line of scrimmage and give the offense unique looks, something Keith Butler loves doing with his athletic outside linebackers.
The bottom line here is Adams missed all of last year with a shoulder injury, but the team kept him. You might be thinking to yourself, “Who cares if they kept him?!”
As a 7th round draft pick, when a player is clearly done for the year with an injury, there would be no problem just releasing the player injured and moving on to the next serviceable pass rusher. But the team liked Adams enough to keep him around. Keep him in the locker room, learning and growing as a professional, despite not playing his rookie year.
What are the expectations for Adams in 2018? Simple. Contribute any way possible. Adams is athletic enough to be a great special teams player, and could be the other backup outside linebacker, filling in the role formerly held by Arthur Moats.
Just look at the team’s depth chart at the position:
Not a very daunting depth chart, is it? Adams will have every opportunity to grab a spot on the 2018 roster, and could push his way onto the field in case of an injury to someone ahead of him. The question for Adams is how much has he grown, both physically and mentally, throughout the year off. If he comes into training camp ready to roll, I wouldn’t be stunned if Adams turns some heads this season and proves to be the answer to the question surrounding the team’s need for depth at outside linebacker.