Steelers vs Giants Film Review: Mike Adams Pass Protection Struggles

As much as I want to criticize the performance of third-year Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Mike Adams against the New York Giants last week—and I will—the truth of the matter is that he actually didn’t play nearly as poorly as many post-game analyses would have you believe.

If we consider simply the end result of the plays during which he was in the game, in relation to his actions on those plays, Adams’ performance could hardly be said to have been much of a detriment to the team’s success or failure, overall.

But sometimes when it comes to football, especially in the evaluative stages of the year, such as in the preseason, players will not be judged simply on a pass/fail basis regarding whether or not their performance on a given play led to a positive or negative outcome.

Adams has had a reputation for being a run blocker pretty much ever since he entered the league, and, truth be told, everybody is much more interested in seeing how he fares in pass protection than in run support.

With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to take a look at some of Adams’ passing snaps that might demonstrate some of the bad habits and technical flaws that the former second-rounder is still trying to overcome with the help of new Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak.

This passing play, for example, came on his fourth snap into the game, on a third and 15 against a former All-Pro pass rusher in Jason Pierre-Paul who just pinned his ears back and charged. It’s really not very pretty.

Adams got caught flat-footed, resting on his right foot and opening his left side, unable to counter when Pierre-Paul attacked his left shoulder. Failing to recover, he is then caught waist-bending, doubling over in the hopes of slowing down the rush. The pressure helped force a throwaway and the Steelers had to settle for a punt, though there was also pressure from the other side.

On his second drive of the game, Pierre-Paul was replaced with veteran Robert Ayers as the right defensive end. On this play, Adams simply failed to land a punch block, keeping his arms in, and Ayers was able to speed past him.

Luckily for Adams, Ayers tripped, and he was able to restore order, but this play resulted in a sack anyway. So far, two plays in which Adams failed to properly execute, but neither of which would likely have affected the end result of the play due to the failings of his other linemen.

Adams did a bit better later in the second quarter, this time against Ayers again. Although he allowed Ayers to dip under his left shoulder, Adams was able to maintain control and walked him up the arc, which allowed the quarterback time to step up in the pocket and…miss his open receiver.

Now in the second half, still facing Ayers, Adams and left guard Chris Hubbard struggled to communicate, as both seemed to be of the opinion that they were supposed to pass Ayers along to the other. For interior linemen in particular, however, you’re supposed to work from the inside out, so my guess would be that this was on Adams. It forced a hurried throw from the quarterback, but the play resulted in a pass interference call on the defense.

To be clear, and to reiterate, the above plays are a selection of the worst blunders that Adams made in pass protection during this game, and are not an accurate overall representation of his performance during the game.

The purpose of this particular selection of plays is simply to point out some of the mental and mechanical flaws that the lineman is looking to correct throughout the course of this offseason. While his overall performance against the Giants wasn’t perhaps much more than mediocre, it certainly was not the complete disaster that many have suggested.

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