Steelers trade for tackle Brown
As Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert put it: “You can't blame them for making the move.”
When you consider the Steelers' poor offensive line play, a shakeup was imminent, and it came Wednesday.
The Steelers acquired left tackle Levi Brown — a former fifth overall pick from Penn State — from Arizona for a conditional draft choice in hopes of stabilizing a position that's become highly unstable by Mike Adams' play over the past three weeks.
“We got below-the-line work (from Adams), and that's the reality of it,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “It needs to be above the line and we will turn over any stone in order for that to happen.”
The Steelers rarely make in-season trades, but the Brown deal illustrates the concerns of a team that is off to its first 0-4 start in 45 years. Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 15 times, the second most of any NFL quarterback.
Adams, a second-round pick in 2012, has had protection problems all season and gave up 3 1⁄2 of the Vikings' five sacks Sunday, making the Steelers desperate enough to trade for Brown even though he is coming off a triceps injury that kept him out of 2012 and has had a rocky start to this season.
“Levi Brown was not living up to our expectations on the field,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said.“At the end of the day, when you realize he is not in the long-term plans, instead of belaboring the point, it's in the best interests of the organization to move on.”
“I am not going to lie, it hasn't be any fun, I'll tell you that,” Steelers first-year offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. said. “We are committed to get things right. I have had teams where you look around at the offensive line and say we are in big trouble. We don't have that feeling.”
The Steelers will assume the remainder of Brown's $30 million, five-year contract he signed in March 2012. However, there is no guaranteed money attached to Brown, making him a salary cap-friendly release after the season if necessary.
The Cardinals will reportedly pay all of the remaining money owned to Brown this year except for $715,000, which is the veteran's minimum. With the release of Isaiah Green, the transaction cost the Steelers $290,000, leaving them approximately $1.2 million under the salary cap.
Brown could jump into the starting lineup immediately, but Tomlin wouldn't commit to that Wednesday. The Steelers remain committed to keeping Gilbert on the right side of the line, even though he spent the entire spring and the first week of training camp at left tackle.
Brown likely will rotate early next week with Kelvin Beachum at left tackle when the Steelers resume practice Monday. The move likely will push Adams to the bench for the remainder of the season, barring injury.
“When you're dealing with young players, it's going to be a work in progress of sorts,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “(But) I still have great confidence in Mike, going forward, that he has the skill set. And if he continues to work and hone his trade that he'll be able to help us.”
The Steelers had little choice but to make a move with Adams. He has allowed the second most sacks (4), the most quarterback hits (6) and the eighth most quarterback hurries (13) in the league through four games.
A promising offensive line that included two first- and second-round picks quickly has unraveled. The Steelers are fourth in the league in sacks allowed (14) and 29th in rushing (58 ypg), which has contributed to the 0-4 start.
“It is not all bad, I can promise you that,” Bicknell said. “We have to rise up and take care of the things that have been hurting us so we can start winning. I made a tape of all the sacks, pressures and hits and, to me, we have done good things and we've done some bad things. Bottom line is that we have to take care of some things that haven't been good.”
It starts at left tackle.