One of the many areas of concern for the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into the 2016 season is their offensive tackle situation. The season ended with Kelvin Beachum on injured reserve due to a torn ACL, and Alejandro Villanueva filling in admirably with little experience at the position.
In March, Beachum will become a free agent, and despite coming off major knee reconstruction could demand more money than Pittsburgh is willing to pay him. The thought of losing Beachum and relying on Villanueva as the starting left tackle doesn't seem as dire now as it did when Beachum was injured, but if such a situation comes to fruition the team would need to address the depth at the position. Acquiring a "swing" tackle who could back up both Villanueva at left tackle and Marcus Gilbert at right tackle would be needed.
The answer to such a query could already be within the Steelers' facility, and will stay there for the 2016 season due to a little known ruling in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the players and owners. The player in this discussion is none other than Mike Adams, who spent the entire 2015 season on the Physically Unable to Perform list due to a back injury which required surgery prior to training camp.
As reported by Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, an obscure stipulation in the collective bargaining agreement means that Adams will NOT become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. In other words, due to missing the entire season, and being on the PUP list, Adams will be spending the next season back in Pittsburgh.
For a player, this is a sore subject, as they could be adding to their personal worth by hitting the open market, but for Adams, he looks at is as a blessing in disguise.
"It's no secret that I love being here. So to be able to be back for a year and not have this year, in a sense, count against me, was kind of a good thing and not (merely) kind of a good thing; it was a great thing." Adams said.
Adams wasn't publicly present much in 2015, but he was in Pittsburgh, at the facility and working to get back as soon as possible.
"I was (frequently) here (at the facility) - but it's just always different when you're not out there practicing or playing," Adams said of his lost 2015 season. "For me I have never been out for a year before so it was a new experience. Definitely an experience to grow mentally stronger and to be able to sit and review myself just sit back and look at the things I need to work on in a bigger perspective.
"You reflect and you are here to watch these guys all grow, such as (guard) David DeCastro making All Pro. I'm just proud of my friends, the way they grinded this year, fought through adversity, losing guys. And real proud of (tackle Alejandro Villanueva) the way he stepped up this year. So it was a heck of a year to sit and watch these guys and I'm sure proud of the way they played."
If Adams is capable of returning to form, it could allow the Steelers to go into training camp with Villanueva, Gilbert and Adams as their core group of offensive tackles. If Beachum prices himself out of Pittsburgh, such a grouping could prevent them from having to draft a tackle in the upcoming draft, or also spending valuable cap space on an offensive tackle on the free agent market. All because of a small unknown rule in the current CBA.