There may be a disparity in their pedigree, but that is not what they see when they work with one another in transitioning from the college level to the NFL. First-round draft pick T.J. Watt, the first selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and seventh-round pick Keion Adams, the last, are joining a lengthy list of outside linebackers vying for a roster spot this year, and right now they are both in the same boat.
Outside linebackers are outside linebackers, no matter how they got here, and that is how Watt and Adams are approaching the journey, together, as partners. “Me and T.J. really don’t think about [draft position] too much”, Adams told Chris Adamski during the Steelers’ rookie minicamp recently for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
“We know at the end of the day we are both rookies, so we both come in here and help each other no matter what”. He added, “it don’t matter what you do in the past, it matters what you do when you get here right now, and we’re both working toward that goal”.
This is a similar dynamic that the team had just a couple of years ago when they used their first-round selection on Bud Dupree and one of two sixth-round picks on Anthony Chickillo, who both came in during the 2015 season to play outside linebacker.
While Chickillo did spend the first three games of his rookie season on the practice squad, they both ultimately made the team and have had some success over the course of the past two years. Chickillo even got an opportunity to start some games last season while Dupree was injured.
You can imagine that Dupree and Chickillo also worked together that year to help each other transition into the NFL, which was a tougher road to hoe for the latter, who was also tasked with dropping a lot of weight, as he played on the defensive line in college.
So now it’s the pairing of Watt and Adams, the former of whom is relatively new to the outside linebacker position, despite being physically highly gifted. “Me and him go back and forth on a lot of the playbook stuff”, Adams told Adamski, “just because we are both new”. Mainly “terminology and things like that” are the focus, “working on the same footwork and stuff. We’re working together quite a bit right now”.
It’s always beneficial when you enter new territory in your life if you have somebody alongside you who is going through the same process with you. Not only are they approaching the same tasks from the same fresh perspective, they are also obviously able to relate to what you are going through.
While Watt’s position on the eventual 53-man roster is virtually guaranteed, however, Adams’ is not, a fact of which he is aware, but he also has confidence in himself. “I know what I can really be”, he told Adamski. “I’m just ready to work and ready to learn”.