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The Optimist’s Take – Mike Adams: Future Starter?

While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.

No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.

With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.

In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the optimistic side of the coin.

Question: Can Mike Adams ever amount to anything with the Steelers?

Most Steelers fans should know a bit about Mike Adams’ backstory. He grew up a Steelers fan, and became a successful left tackle at Ohio State, before running into some minor troubles. He damaged his draft stock after failing a drug test at the Combine.

Adams went out of his way specifically for the Steelers to provide the organization reassurances that he was committed to excelling in his career, and he agreed to stipulations prior to the draft that he would adhere to in the event that the team chose him, which they ultimately did in the second round of the 2012 draft.

Adams has made 15 starts as an offensive lineman in his career (with another five as a tackle-eligible tight end), but only four of them came as the incumbent starter, rather than as an injury replacement. 10 of his starts—six as a rookie, four last year—were fill-in starts for Marcus Gilbert at right tackle. He also started one game as an injury replacement for Kelvin Beachum at left tackle in 2013 after losing his starting job.

The Steelers hoped that they could slot him in to the left tackle spot in his second season and leave him there for the next decade or so, but their minds were changed after a month of sacks and losses.

Can he still have a future as a starting offensive lineman, and can he manage that with the Steelers? He didn’t exactly seem as though he was threatening Gilbert’s job during his four starts last year, but perhaps with another season under Mike Munchak, he could show some of the same improvement that Gilbert did.

The trickiest part of this equation is the fact that he is in the final year of his contract. Gilbert already has a new contract, and Beachum is due one himself. There are also high dollars committed, or slated to be committed, to the interior as well.

Adams would have to be willing to re-sign for peanuts following this season if he fails to make much headway, and then hope that he is given a chance to compete. He has enough physical attributes and raw talent for somebody, somewhere, to think that maybe a change of scenery is what he needs, but if he really wants to be in Pittsburgh, perhaps there’s a way. Especially given Gilbert’s injury history.

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