On the Steelers: Levi Brown hoped to be an upgrade at left tackle


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Did the Steelers find some kind of solution to their gaping hole at left tackle by acquiring Levi Brown, or did they just throw another rather large deck chair on the Titanic?

Brown comes to the Steelers at the small cost of a late conditional draft pick that will be sent to the Arizona Cardinals, but also with a very large price tag of $3.6 million guaranteed left to pay on his 2013 salary that was $4.75 million.

That salary marks the first year of a contract extension Brown signed with Arizona in 2012 that was to pay him $30 million through 2016. So, if Brown works out and the Steelers want to keep him, they can have him for next season and beyond. He is due more than $6 million in 2014.

The Arizona Cardinals no longer wanted him. Even though the Cardinals are 2-2 and still have playoff aspirations, they were willing to sell off their starting left tackle for little more than beads and trinkets.

In Arizona, Brown was regarded by Cardinals fans about how Steelers fans think of Mike Adams these days. Pro Football Focus, which grades players, rates Adams in a tie for 69th among the 72 offensive tackles they rank. They list Brown at 60.

So, why did the Steelers trade for a player Arizona no longer wanted?

"We're excited about potentially acquiring a veteran offensive lineman," coach Mike Tomlin said.

Tomlin did not want to talk much about Brown because the trade wasn't yet official when he spoke Wednesday early in the afternoon. But they won't automatically plug him in as a starting tackle.

"We're going to wait and see," Tomlin said of his plans for Brown, who is listed as 6 feet 6, 324 pounds.

"Obviously, his ability to take in and learn information is going to be an element of it."

Brown, drafted fifth overall in 2007 from Penn State, is the Steelers' attempt to boost their poor play at left tackle, where Adams started the first four games.

Brown, 29, has not lived up to his lofty draft status. He missed all the 2012 season because of a torn right triceps that occurred in a preseason game Aug. 17. Before that, he was durable, starting every game the previous four years. He started 11 of 13 games as a rookie.

He began his career with the Cardinals as a right tackle and started against the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. He moved to left tackle in 2010 and was not as efficient. He is considered better blocking for the run than for the pass, just as Adams is.

Adams started six games at right tackle as a rookie in 2012 after the Steelers drafted him in the second round from Ohio State. They hoped to start Marcus Gilbert at left tackle and Adams at right this season, but, early in training camp, they flipped sides and have stayed that way.

It's possible that Adams never returned to full strength from the stomach wound he suffered when he was stabbed in a car-jacking attempt on the South Side in June.

Gilbert steadily has improved at right tackle, but Adams has declined, culminating with his worst game Sunday in a 34-27 loss in London against the Minnesota Vikings.

Adams allowed two sacks in that game.

According to Pro Football Focus, he has allowed four sacks this season, six hits on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and 13 quarterback hurries. He also was penalized 15 yards Sunday for holding.

"We've gotten below-the-line work, and that's the reality of it," Tomlin said of Adams. "It needs to be above the line, and we'll turn over any stone in order for that to happen."

Kelvin Beachum replaced Adams for a series in that game Sunday but then had to move to left guard for the second half because of a pectoral injury to Ramon Foster.

Players said that, in practice Wednesday, the first team had Beachum at left tackle and Guy Whimper at left guard.

One reason the Cardinals may have been so down on Brown is the high pick they used on him and the high expectations that came with it.

Among the players Arizona could have drafted instead were Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis and Darrelle Revis.

He comes with no such expectations here. The Steelers expectations right now are that he can play better than Adams.

"I'm not going to have any preconceived notions," Tomlin said.

"I'll wait until I get an opportunity to meet him and work with him and let that be the determining factor.

"The great thing is that we obviously not only have a full week of work ahead of us, but we also have a Monday bonus day which we intend to take full advantage of."

Quick hits

• Cornerback Isaiah Green was released to make room for Brown on the 53-man roster.

• Markus Wheaton had surgery on a little finger that was injured in the game Sunday, and Tomlin is not sure when the rookie receiver will resume practice or play.

"I think we have to get the stitches out before we even look at how we proceed from there. Of course, it will be a number of days before that's able to transpire."

• Others held out of practice but whom Tomlin hopes to play Oct. 13 against the New York Jets are Roethlisberger, tight end Heath Miller, running back Le'Veon Bell, nose tackle Steve McLendon and Foster.

Steelers

Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published October 3, 2013 4:00 AM


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