The Pittsburgh Steelers’ interest in the free agent offensive tackle market seemed to take many by surprise, as most seemed to assume that they were prepared to head into the future with Alejandro Villanueva as their uncontested left tackle after he started 12 games there in his first season in 2015.
From meeting with their own free agent to visiting another high-profile player and reportedly offering him a contract, it was clear that they were not just doing due diligence. The signing of Ryan Harris, a veteran journeyman with 70 career starts, still leaves some unanswered questions, but one answer that it does seem to provide is the fate of the Steelers’ 2012 second-round draft pick.
That 56th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft went to 6’7”, 320-plus-pound Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams, whom some pegged as a first-round talent, but whose off-field concerns, among them a failed drug test and a college suspension, had him off of some teams’ draft boards—including Pittsburgh’s.
The story has been told several times, but given that the writing seems to be on the wall that this will be his last offseason with the team, it might not hurt to tell it again. After failing a drug test at the Combine, the Steelers told Adams that he was off their board. But he personally reached out to the team, whom he grew up loving.
He was able to convince them that he would give everything that he had to the team and that he would be willing to accept certain conditions if they put him back on their draft board. When the time come for them to pick in the second round of the draft and he was still available, they pulled the trigger on him.
Adams started five games at right tackle due to injury before he was injured himself, then moved into the starting lineup at left tackle in year two. But he failed disastrously in that role, and was benched after the first four games, replaced by Kelvin Beachum, who was also a second-year player at the time drafted in the seventh round.
The former never picked up from there, spending the rest of that season as the swing tackle—making one more start at left tackle and a few more the year after at right tackle due to injury—as well as some as a tackle-eligible tight end, but even in those roles, when the team succeeded, it was often in spite of him.
Adams missed the entirety of the 2015 season after undergoing a back operation just prior to the opening of training camp. He spent all year on the Physically Unable to Perform list, which prompted the final season of his rookie contract to be tolled into this year.
But with Harris, Villanueva, and Marcus Gilbert, the Steelers already have their three tackles, and other tackle-capable bodies if they chose to keep a fourth. With an $873K cap hit and no assurance that he will even be healthy, it seems that the team has already made up their minds about his future, even if they bring him to camp.