There can be no worse feeling for a rookie without pedigree attached to his name than to get the feeling of the team forgetting about him after he can no longer play because of an injury. Every year, on every team, we see young players getting that injury waiver designation.
Those roster spots are too valuable to allow every young player with ‘potential’ to occupy a spot that he won’t be able to use. So that’s why it meant something when the Pittsburgh Steelers chose to keep then-rookie seventh-round outside linebacker Keion Adams around on the offseason roster before they placed him on the season-ending injured-reserve list.
They don’t do this with everybody. They did it with Eli Rogers, but not for B.J. Finney, for example. They did it for Jordan Zumwalt, yet did not afford Jordan Dangerfield or Malik Golden the same courtesy just a season ago.
“The way they huddled around me, made sure I was in the building, coming to meetings, being on the sideline for every game and out there at practice, I knew they hadn’t forgotten about me”, Adams told Joe Rutter. “It was like, ‘we might not need you this year, but we will need you next year, so make sure you are ready”.
Adams was the first of what is becoming a stable of former Western Michigan alumni on the team. The Steelers added two of his teammates as rookies this offseason, including offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor in the third round and running back Jarvion Franklin as a college free agent.
While they drafted one of his former teammates, however, they did not draft anybody at his position, nor did they ever seem to come particularly close to doing so, and this is in spite of the fact that they had already parted with two players from last season’s roster in James Harrison—now retired—and Arthur Moats, who remains a free agent.
“It definitely made me feel better about the situation, but you can never get too comfortable”, he said about the fact that the team felt comfortable enough in the position as a whole, including his presence within it, to come out of the draft without an outside linebacker.
But he was also realistic, saying that failing to draft a player there “doesn’t mean things can’t change. Things always change in this league. For me, I knew they had confidence in me, so it made my confidence go up even more, but it doesn’t mean much more than that”.
Adams has spent the spring running with the second-team defense along with Anthony Chickillo. He will be fighting to retain that spot throughout training camp against challengers such as Olakunkanmi Adeniyi and Farrington Huguenin, the two players with the hardest names to type with accuracy consistently.