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What Montravius Adams brings to the Pittsburgh Steelers defense

Is Adams a real asset or just a guy who had a good game?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Tomlin opened the door to changing personnel on the field after the Steelers embarrassing loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. One of those changes was the addition of Montravius Adams coming from the New Orleans Saints practice squad to be the Steelers primary nose tackle in their 7-man fronts.

His impact in that role showed up right off the bat.

Steelers vs. Ravens, 1st quarter, 14:33

Montravius Adams (#57) is the defensive tackle to the left of the center.

Adams takes a double team, gives no ground, and then gets in on the tackle. Adams and Cameron Heyward dominate the interior of the line and the Ravens end up losing yards on the play. If you look at Chris Wormley on this play you can see how Adams holding his ground creates little room for the back to attack.

Steelers vs. Ravens, 1st quarter, 11:17

Montravius Adams (#57) is the defensive tackle in front of the center.

Adams gets driven to the side on this play by the center, but works his way back into the middle and is able to get his hand back to deflect the ball. The effort, awareness and agility he shows on this play is impressive, and reflects the high level athleticism he showed before the 2017 draft where he was drafted in the third round, one pick before Steeler cornerback Cameron Sutton. While Sutton’s importance to the Steelers has grown every season, Adams has seen a steady decline in play time since 2018, mostly due to injuries.

Steelers vs. Ravens, 3rd quarter, 3:36

Montravius Adams (#57) is the defensive tackle in front of the center.

Here’s an even better example of his athleticism. The guard moves off the double team, believing that he’s slowed Adams enough to take him out of the play, but he’s wrong. The center only has one arm on Adams, and Adams is able to keep free and runs down the back to turn what could have been a very big play into a two yard gain.

Steelers vs. Ravens, 1st quarter, 9:24

Montravius Adams (#57) is the defensive tackle in front of the center.

One of the limitations in Adams’ game is his lack of ability to get off solid blocks effectively. Here we see his main value as a pass rusher, where he just walks the center slowly backward into the pocket until the guard gives the center a little help.

Steelers vs. Ravens, 1st quarter, 9:24

Montravius Adams (#57) is the defensive tackle in the middle of the line.

Adams’ best attribute is his explosiveness at the snap. You can see how quickly he reacts to the snap and how that helps him win initial contact. He also does a good job staying with the play here, shrinking run lanes in front of him while maintaining position to deny any cutbacks.

Steelers vs. Ravens, 2nd quarter, 3:57

Montravius Adams (#57) is the defensive tackle across from the center.

Again you can see the explosiveness at the snap, but you can also see how little he does afterwards, and while he can play a decent role in containing a quarterback because of his athleticism, he isn’t going to be much of a threat as a pass rusher.

Look at his reaction to the snap in slow motion though

Adams is into the center’s chest before T.J. Watt, who’s burst off the snap is legendary, crosses the line of scrimmage. Look at Adams’ hands, the center can’t get his hands up fast enough, Adams hits him and drives upward, taking the leverage battle simply by getting his hands onto the center before the center has time to get his hands up following the snap.

Steelers vs. Ravens, 3rd quarter, 10:33

Montravius Adams (#57) is the defensive tackle across from the center.

On this play Adams is still the first Steeler off the line at the snap, but it isn’t as quick as other times and center Bradley Bozeman is ready for him. With Bozeman already in his stance Adams hands are high, and it is Bozeman winning the initial contact. You can see how reliant Adams is on winning that first contact here, as this time he loses leverage quickly and is driven backwards.

Steelers vs. Ravens, 3rd quarter, 1:43

Montravius Adams (#57) is the defensive tackle across from the center.

Adams is impressive on this play with his explosive reaction to the snap, but his attack is sloppy and while he kind of splits the guard and center, it gets him no where in pass rush terms. It creates disruption, so it wasn’t completely wasted, but you can see why his great ball-get-off isn’t the weapon it could be.

This play did give us this beautiful frame. That explosiveness off the snap is beautiful.

Henry Mondeaux and Taco Charlton haven’t even begun to move and Adams has a hand on the center. Again Bozeman’s hands haven’t come up nearly enough to help deal with Adams. If Adams had effective tools to use after this moment he would be a nightmare for opposing centers.

That’s what the Steelers have right now in Montravius Adams, a 26 year old defensive tackle with elite explosiveness off the snap, high-level athleticism, and little else. That explosiveness helped him win a lot of battles at first contact, but he’s really reliant on that initial win. It’s going to be hard for centers to deal with him if he can consistently react to the snap that quickly, so he has a solid floor of value simply for that. It stands out that in the almost 600 snaps he has played in his 5 year career he has only one offsides penalty, which tells me he’s not jumping the snap count, that is his reaction to the snap.

I don’t think he’s a project at this point, he’s been in the NFL as long as T.J. Watt has, if he was going to develop those tools, you’d think he already would have.

Adams isn’t going to be a big time player, and he doesn’t have to be, if he can help this defensive line solidify the middle of their run defense with his explosiveness, that will be an enormous boost to the overall defense, negating a glaring weakness is a huge upgrade, and hopefully that’s what the Steelers will get from Adams moving forward.