Now that we have completed our look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster heading into training camp a bit under a month from now, it’s time to take a look back at the team’s 53-man roster from last year’s regular season, for the purpose of revisiting the contributions of the players that are no longer with the team, and whether or not those contributions have been adequately replaced.
Roster turnover is just a natural fact of today’s NFL, which have only become more prominent since the advent of free agency more than two decades ago. It’s very rare for a team to return all 11 starters on one side of the ball from one year to the next, let alone to do so for both the offense and defense.
The Steelers are certainly no exception to that rule, and they figure to have a number of lineup changes from 2015 to 2016, which seems to be increasingly common for them in recent years.
He never dressed, let alone even spent any time on the 53-man roster in 2015, but he was meant to, and fourth-year offensive tackle Mike Adams is yet another missing piece for the Steelers in 2016, a former 2012 second-round draft choice that they had hoped to turn into their franchise left tackle.
The Steelers are one their second alternative since then, pending a third, but they had hoped at least for Adams to serve as a competent swing tackle after he proved to be too much of a liability over the course of his first three seasons to leave in the starting lineup.
There was hope that the former Buckeye might finally turn things around under the watchful eye of veteran offensive line coach Mike Munchak, but he never got the opportunity to demonstrate how much he might have been able to progress last season.
He underwent an operation on his back just prior to the time that the Steelers opened training camp. Initial belief seemed to suggest that he should be ready prior to the start of the season, but instead he started the year on the PUP List, and as it turned out, he never came off it.
Because he was entering the final season of his rookie contract and was never off of the PUP List, his contract tolled to give him one more year. But the Steelers released Adams earlier this offseason with a failed physical designation, which suggests that his recovery from the back ailment that had bothered him for the past few years has been far from neutralized. He remains a free agent.
In the meantime, the Steelers appear to be set at tackle. Alejandro Villanueva started 12 games last year, including the playoffs, but they brought in veteran Ryan Harris just in case. The loser of that battle will serve as the swing tackle. Waiting in the wings will be Jerald Hawkins, a fourth-round pick who declared as an underclassman. He will be given the time to develop.