Collier: Adams a risk Steelers were willing to take

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Among the more enduring traditions of a Steelers franchise that embraces tradition like few others is this essential all-or-nothing nature of the second-round draft pick.

Kevin Colbert has made Pittsburgh's first-round success nearly metronomic, even if the pick after the pick has remained historically adventuresome.

Well, buckle up.

Into the Steelers tradition where for every Dermontti Dawson there's a Limas Sweed on your Round 2 Menu, where for every Chad Brown there's an Alonzo Jackson, where for every LaMarr Woodley there's a Ricardo Colclough, please welcome to the great and never-ending Steelers Scrutiny Festival Mr. Mike Adams, offensive tackle, Tattoo U.

Suspended for taking improper benefits in the scandal that felled coach Jim Tressel at Ohio State, Adams failed a drug test at the Indianapolis scouting combine after telling the Steelers he never smoked weed.

"We were point-blank with him," Colbert said, "We said, 'Mike, you've off our board.' "

And having said that, they found a way to get him back on.

"He sought us out," Colbert went on. "He requested a face-to-face with me, Art Rooney and Mike Tomlin, and we presented it to him: These are the stipulations that you have to accomplish for consideration for us to draft you, which the young man did. He met our criteria, met our stipulations."

Colbert wouldn't say what they were, but you would presume Adams had to do more than just open a Costco membership and move Tomlin's weights up to the attic.

It's unusual for the Steelers to crawl that far out on a limb for a second-round talent, but even more unusual for them to be so candid about their concerns.

"Those are usually offenses that we are not going to forgive," Colbert said. "Still, we're comfortable in selecting him, but it's a day-to-day process."

While that process unfolds, the Steelers will be comforted by all of the Mike Adams that meets the eye, which is the kid who's 6 feet 7 and 323 pounds with 34-inch arms.

"Adams did have a first-round grade," offensive line coach Sean Kugler said. "He has great size and long arms for a guy his size, a lot of length and that's important at the tackle position. He's got things to work on in his entire game. You wouldn't say he's a finished product, but he's a willing worker."

Willing workers with great bodies and dubious pasts was a theme introduced to the second-round 17 picks before the Adams selection. The first real metaphorical roll of the character dice accompanied the name Janoris Jenkins, thought by some to be the most talented cornerback in the draft but a talent who nonetheless could not escape the interchangeable labels "troubled young man" and troubled young man with "severe off-the-field baggage."

Severe baggage sounds like what we used to take to the airport from Disney World, and probably should be the name of somebody's punk band, but I'm a little troubled by this "troubled young man" description.

Jenkins doesn't seem to be troubled by anything at all, nor were the St. Louis Rams, now under the direction of Jeff Fisher, who took a similar chance on one Adam "Pac-Man" Jones as the head man at Tennessee.

You know how that worked out.

Jenkins wasn't troubled over being arrested on a marijuana charge while at the University of Florida, at least not troubled enough to avoid two more arrests for the same thing. He wasn't troubled by the accumulating responsibility of having four kids under the age of 3, or at least not troubled enough to avoid a bar fight, a failed drug test, and getting kicked off the team, which is how we wound up being drafted out of North Alabama.

Janoris might be a lot of things, but troubled is one of 'em.

Friday he night he told an interviewer on Sirius radio that comparisons to Pac-Man are bogus because:

"I never shot up a strip club or nothing like that."

Good point.

Jenkins also said at that time that teams who passed on him in the draft, "Are gonna pay."

Blessedly then, Mike Adams, in his first interview late Friday night, declined to threaten anybody.

"I'm just happy to be a Steeler and very relieved that it's all over," Adams said in a conference call. "I love this organization and I'm glad to be a part of it. Every since I imagined playing in the NFL, the Steelers are the team I wanted. I grew up in Farrell, Pa., and when I was 4 years old my entire bedroom was Pittsburgh Steelers stuff. So it was important for me to reach out to them."

The Steelers were the only team Adams contacted after failing his drug test, and what he said was not only plausible, but impressive enough that the Steelers wound up passing on two viable nose tackles -- Clemson's Brandon Thompson and Washington's Alameda Ta'amu.

Nose tackle remains a "need," but apparently not a "want."

Estimates vary on how many eligible draft picks would be eliminated if the NFL was truly horrified by marijuana use, but recent surveys indicate it might be 27 percent or higher.

Given all the world's realities, Adams was a risk the Steelers were willing to take. It's not like they've never whiffed in the second round before.

genecollier

Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com. First Published April 28, 2012 2:45 AM


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