Tackle Adams out to prove himself ... again
Mike Adams, a soft-spoken rookie offensive tackle, is rather guarded and rarely exposes his emotions. But even his usually stoic persona couldn't hide his excitement about having an opportunity to prove he can cut it in the NFL.
The Steelers' second-round draft pick often had been criticized for his apparent stretches of inconsistency, if not complacency, during the preseason. There were suggestions that perhaps he wasn't nearly as good as advertised.
Yet the 6-foot-7, 323-pounder enters Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins at Heinz Field with renewed vigor, in part because his confidence soared after a solid performance in a 24-17 win at Cincinnati last weekend.
Adams, who stepped in for injured right tackle Marcus Gilbert, helped rejuvenate a troubled run game that amassed a season-high 167 yards against the Bengals — including a 122-yard effort by Jonathan Dwyer.
“I'm sure there were high expectations, but I have high expectations for myself,” said Adams, who started 25 of 30 games at Ohio State. “So to be able to get in and get a chance to play is certainly a blessing. I give a lot of credit to the guys working with me and helping me develop.
“I've been preparing every week as if I'm going to be playing. I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm prepared. I tried to be ready when they call my name.”
The Steelers (3-3), looking to narrow the 1 1⁄2-game deficit with Baltimore in the AFC North, got an unexpected spark from Adams. But, again, Adams will be challenged to deliver.
“(Adams and center Doug Legursky) stepped up to the plate in a major way last week,” said All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey, who returns to the lineup after missing last week's game with a right knee injury. “I was proud of them. I was jumping up and down on the sidelines cheering them on.
“Mike has progressed so much, and he finally showed everybody he can be a high-caliber kind of player. He really shut down some pretty good pass rushers.”
Adams will spend much of the game trying to keep defensive end Jarvis Jenkins from collapsing the pocket and chasing after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Jenkins has 11 quarterback pressures or hits but has recorded just one sack. Adams also will keep an eye on linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who has a team-high 3 1⁄2 sacks.
The pressure concerns Haley. The Redskins have hurried opposing quarterbacks into throwing 10 interceptions.
The Redskins are as big as the Bengals up front, but Adams has discovered a sizable difference between tussling with linemen in the Big Ten and the NFL.
“The size and speed of the guys you're playing against is the biggest challenge,” Adams said. “It's not like college when there was a weak link here and there. Everybody is the best of the best in this league. So it's definitely a little bit different.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7923.