Last week, we learned after the time for Mike Adams to begin practicing to hope to return from the Physically Unable to Perform List had passed, and that, due to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, his contract will be tolled, making 2016 the last year on his contract.
Essentially, he will still be under contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers next year, even though he came into this season under the final year of his four-year rookie contract. And that’s a good thing. Mostly, anyway.
The Steelers are having a bit of an issue at the tackle position at the moment, you may have noticed. Aside from the improved Marcus Gilbert, there really isn’t much to look at on the roster right now, nor beyond this year.
Starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum tore his ACL a month or so back, and is in the final year of his contract, as Adams was entering the year. He already figured to command a good amount of money, and it’s unclear how the Steelers will approach his contract next year.
Starting in his place is 27-year-old first-year player Alejandro Villanueva, who has had his ups and downs as new things that he has never seen before are thrown at his by opposing defenses on a weekly basis.
Right now it’s impossible to say if he has any type of long-term viability as a starter, which is the same thing we were saying about Beachum entering the 2014 season.
But even more concerning is the fact that the backup behind Gilbert and Villanueva is second-year former undrafted free agent guard Chris Hubbard. The man who likely would have not made the 53-man roster were it not for injury is one snap away from playing as a starter.
The Steelers replaced Beachum on the 53-man roster with Byron Stingily, who once played under Mike Munchak, without great success, but he has yet to be active for a game, and is clearly the last in line.
Beachum, Hubbard, and Stingily are all not under contract for the 2016 season. Villanueva, and now Adams, are.
At the bare minimum, that presents the Steelers with options, with bodies at the position, as they head into the offseason process to restock the tackle position, which outside of Gilbert is bereft of anything resembling a sure thing heading into 2016.
While many would like to see Adams simply run out of town altogether, cut outright, the fact of the matter is that the group of Gilbert, Villanueva, and Adams looks better than just Gilbert and Villanueva. And being on the roster in March does not guarantee a roster spot in September.
2015 was supposed to be the year that we really saw whether or not Adams had the capability of being an NFL lineman. Not as a starter, but as a career backup. While he has filled in at right tackle, including four starts in 2013, he struggled in the lineup.
This was the year that was going to show his growth under Munchak, but a back injury robbed him of the opportunity as his contract was supposed to run out. Now he, the organization, and the fans, get one more chance to find out. And in the meantime, it adds a bit of depth to a very bare position looking ahead from here right now.