Thanks to a shoulder injury that completely wiped out his 2017 rookie season, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Keion Adams is being looked at as bonus seventh-round draft selection this year by general manager Kevin Colbert.
“When we look at the outside linebacker, you know Keion Adams was a kid we took last year in the seventh-round had a real good early start in the training camp. And we were excited about where he was going to be able to go, but unfortunately had a shoulder injury that required surgery and you know, he didn’t get to play,” Colbert told the media at the conclusion of the 2018 NFL Draft. “But you always had him in the bank and I mean he’s really another seventh-round pick in our eyes for this season.”
Adams, who will be expected to make the 53-man roster in 2018 as potentially the team’s No. 4 outside linebacker behind Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt and Anthony Chickillo, recently told Teresa Varley of steelers.com that he’s really looking forward to picking up where he left off last year during training camp when the Steelers begin their annual OTA practices on Tuesday.
“I am itching to get out there. I am so excited to get back into it,” Adams told Varley. “I am taking it slow, trying not to get too anxious and take it one day at a time, focus on me. I want to make sure when my body is right I can go out there and compete I can be the best man I can. When I get out there for games, it’s going to be really real. Somebody is going to feel me.”
Adams, who failed to play in any preseason games during his rookie season due to the shoulder injury he suffered early on in training camp, registered 13.5 sacks in the 51 career games he played in over a span of four seasons at Western Michigan. 12 of those sacks came during his final two seasons as did 89 of his 125 total tackles. While he didn’t get to experience the speed of an NFL game during his rookie season, Adams told Varley recently that things have slowed down for him considerably as he enters his second year of OTAs with the Steelers.
“Everything is not moving as fast,” Adams said. “That is the best part about it. I might be a rookie on the field, but I am a sophomore in the classroom. At the end of the day I get more out of being a do it type of guy, but the X’s and O’s, they came together and I want to get out there and do it on the field. Learning the defense helped, I have a year under my belt. I won’t be like a deer in headlights. Having like a redshirt year gave me more confidence, learning the defense and being able to go out there and know what I am doing.”
While the Steelers failed to draft an outside linebacker this year despite them no longer having two of the five on last season’s depth chart under contract, they did select two last season in Adams and Watt, their first-round pick who went on to register 7 sacks during his rookie season. According to Adams, he and Watt instantly bonded with each other during their rookie seasons.
“You would have thought we were twins,” said Adams of Watt. “We were joined at the hip [last season]. I love the guy like he is my brother. We came in together, worked together. He helps me so much. He pushes me. even when I was practicing at the start of camp, we studied together, worked out together. He has taught me some things form playing last year. He will tell me this is how you think things will go, but this is how it will go. He has helped me a lot growing as a player and person.”
If things go as planned this offseason, Adams will remain healthy and potentially even push Chickillo for his spot on the depth chart in addition to proving to special teams coordinator Danny Smith that he can help out tremendously in that all-important phase of the game like most backup linebackers in Pittsburgh and around the entire NFL are expected to do. The Steelers are expected to keep four or five outside linebackers in total on their 53-man roster in 2018 and barring another injury, Adams should wind up being one them when the dust clears in early September.
“I am ready to come back and get to work,” said Adams. “I am getting back in shape, getting ready to get back on the field and back to the player I was, the reason they brought me here.”
While it has been more than a year ago since Adams was drafted by the Steelers, Colbert’s initial comments about the Western Michigan product still aren’t hard to forget.
“You take a kid and there’s some raw talent there,” said Colbert of Adams not long after his selection. “There was some production there and hopefully maybe he can turn into something.”