Tomlin makes changes to Steelers' lineup on both sides of ball
Ten starts and 11 sacks allowed into an NFL career that's still in its infancy, Steelers left tackle Mike Adams is getting sacked himself.
So is defensive end Ziggy Hood, who hasn't lived to his first-round draft pick expectations — and now isn't even on the first team.
The fallout from the Steelers' 0-4 start continued Tuesday as coach Mike Tomlin announced Adams and Hood were out as starters.
Either Kelvin Beachum or the newly added Levi Brown will replace Adams and former first-round pick Cam Heyward supplants Hood.
That Adams would be benched after allowing 31⁄2 sacks against the Vikings became evident as soon as the Steelers returned from London and dealt with Arizona for Brown, the No. 5 overall pick in 2007 for Arizona.
However, Adams still was listed as a starter on the official team depth chart as recently as Monday.
Tomlin changed that in a hurry, and he issued a challenge to Adams while doing so.
“I think it's going to have an opportunity to define him and his career,” Tomlin said of the former Ohio State star. “There are a lot of solid professional guys that have been through ups and downs, the emotions and so forth.
“The guys that show staying power and the guys that respond to it appropriately, that roll their sleeves up and go to work, (are) steady, solid players.”
Beachum probably will start Sunday against the Jets, as long as left guard Ramon Foster recovers from a left pectoral muscle strain. If he doesn't, Beachum could start at guard with Brown starting at tackle.
Ben Roethlisberger is one of Adams' biggest supporters, but even he recognizes it was time for a change after Vikings star Jared Allen punished Adams repeatedly in London.
“There comes a time where if you're not playing up to par, coach has to make a decision,” Roethlisberger said on his 93.7 radio show. “He's doing that with Mike. Maybe this is exactly what he needs to get to that next level, to be that high-profile guy.”
The Steelers have invested heavily in their offensive line, devoting two first-round picks (center Maurkice Pouncey and guard David DeCastro) and two second-rounders (Adams and Marcus Gilbert) to it since 2010.
Despite doing so, their running game is off to its worst start in franchise history with only a 58 yards per game average, and Roethlisberger is being forced repeatedly to abandon the pocket or to improvise because of a lack of pass protection.
Roethlisberger's 15 sacks are tied for the fourth most in the league, even though the Steelers have played one fewer game than most teams.
Even as the Steelers were drafting one offensive lineman after another, they expended first-round picks on defensive ends Hood (2009) and Heyward (2011). Now, one is taking over for the other.
Heyward, second on the team with nine quarterback pressures, “will play more and deservedly so,” Tomlin said. “To ensure that, we're going to put him in the starting lineup.”
Unlike Adams, who probably won't get on the field in the near future unless there are more injuries, Hood will get playing time as defensive end Brett Keisel continues to take some series off.
Hood, a starter for two-plus seasons, is in the final season of his five-year contract.
“I think he (Heyward) has been really solid, not taking anything away from Ziggy,” Tomlin said.
Except Tomlin is taking something away from Hood: His job.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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