In a move that at least I myself found somewhat surprising, among the steps that the Pittsburgh Steelers took yesterday to get down to 75 men on their roster was to revert fourth-year offensive tackle Mike Adams from the Active PUP List to the Reserve PUP List, which carries over into the regular season.
As the immediate implication of this move, Adams will not be able to practice or play for the first six weeks of the regular season, and will be eligible to return only after that point. Even if his recovery lasts a couple of weeks into the season, this would still represent an extreme move to be without, ostensibly, your top swing tackle if he could return sooner than six weeks.
Adams had a procedure done on his back to alleviate a long-standing issue just prior to training camp—an injury that head coach Mike Tomlin described as calling for a recovery period of about four weeks, which has already passed.
Based on the available information provided by the team, that seems to imply that the progression of Adams’ recovery from injury has hit a snag of some sort, and that he has not healed as projected—not that he is likely to find much sympathy amongst the team’s fan base.
As a result of Adams’ absence from the roster to start the season, this makes first-year offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva a virtual lock to make the roster. The decorate Army Ranger set to turn 27 years old during the season embarked on his dream to make an NFL roster last season as a defensive end with the Philadelphia Eagles last spring.
After facing Villanueva during the preseason in 2014, the Steelers signed him to their practice squad and moved him to offensive tackle, where he played for two seasons at Army before moving to wide receiver during his senior season.
He went undrafted following his senior season during the 2010 NFL draft before beginning his first of multiple tours of duty overseas, in between aborted attempts to make the rosters of the Cincinnati Bengals and the Chicago Bears in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
The 6’9” specimen put on nearly 100 pounds over the course of the past year to breach the 340-pound mark, and he has been the Steelers’ best performer at tackle this preseason behind the starters, working at both left and right tackle.
Barring the distinct possibility that the Steelers end up adding a veteran tackle off waivers either in the next couple of days or after the final cuts, Villanueva will not only be on the roster, but will in fact be a game day active as the swing tackle behind both Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert.
This is the role that Adams has served for the better part of the past two season, and though opinions vary on just how well he actually filled in when necessary—he has made one start at left tackle and four at right tackle since losing his starting job—the team has apparently been in his corner with respect to his performance.
Should Villanueva end up cementing his role as the swing tackle in Adams’ absence, however, and especially if the Steelers do sign a veteran tackle, this may be the last that we see of the former 2012 second-round draft pick as he enters a contract year. The Steelers carried just one reserve tackle on the roster in 2014.