Mike Adams gets a second chance Sunday when he starts at left tackle against the Miami Dolphins.
The Steelers can only hope he follows a similar path taken by John Jackson, one of their better left tackles of the past generation.
Jackson, too, fell on his face when he first played left tackle as a rookie in 1988. He started a preseason game at New Orleans where linebacker Pat Swilling, one of the NFL’s preeminent pass rushers at the time, blew past Jackson for three sacks that day.
Gerry's Picks: Week 14 of the 2013 NFL season
The PG's Gerry Dulac offers predictions on a few NFL games, including the Steelers-Dolphins matchup Sunday at Heinz Field. (Video by Andrew Rush; 12/6/2013)
Coach Chuck Noll wanted to cut him, but offensive line coach Ron Blackledge talked him out of it. Jackson did not start a regular-season game as a rookie, but won the job the next year and started at left tackle for the next nine seasons. He left as a free agent and started in San Diego and Cincinnati before calling it a career after 14 seasons in the NFL.
There’s a lesson there for Adams, who had a rough go of it through the first four games this season when he started at left tackle and got teed up by opposing pass rushers. Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings had a particularly good day against Adams with 2½ sacks, three quarterback hurries and a batted pass as the Steelers lost, 34-27, to fall to 0-4.
Adams then fell down the depth chart. Kelvin Beachum was promoted to starting left tackle for the fifth game and stayed there until he was lost to a sprained right knee last Thursday in their 22-20 loss at Baltimore.
Adams, who replaced Beachum against the Ravens, overcame his own ankle injury from that game and will start against Miami. He is the Steelers’ tallest lineman at 6 feet 7 and listed at 323 pounds.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, for one, believes the second-year pro still has the ability to become a good left tackle in the NFL.
“Absolutely, no doubt about it,” Roethlisberger said Thursday. “Besides the physical tools, he’s athletic, he’s big. You’re starting to see a little bit of nastiness, some toughness. A couple days ago in practice, he was kind of getting into little scuffles and stuff. Normally, you don’t want to see that, but yet certain guys, you do want to see that.”
Adams is one of them.
“We put him in games as that extra tight end, tackle, whatever it is,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s helping him build his confidence, as well. I do see a good future for him, I really do.”
It’s in Adams’ hands. Beachum, who was drafted to play guard, was forced to play left tackle after Adams’ early troubles and has tried to show the coaches he can play the position now and into the future.
Now it’s Adams’ turn to get another chance to show them the same thing — or at least show they were not wrong to make him their second-round draft choice in 2012.
“You go out there and play. If you don’t play well, you can’t let it get you down,” Adams said of his first four games. “Obviously, it didn’t work out too well.”
He welcomes the opportunity to show he can do the job.
“I feel like if Beach can’t go and my number gets called, I look forward to stepping in and helping my guys out. I’ve had a lot of time to work on fundamentals, footwork and stuff like that to improve stuff like that. I’ve definitely had a long while to work at it.
“It’s not really about changing things, it’s about improving things, just being more consistent, especially with my feet and hands. That’s what we’ve worked hard on every day, just get better at what you do every day, every play.”
Beachum, who sits next to Adams in the locker room and was part of the same 2012 draft class as a seventh-round pick, saw what his teammate went through early in the season.
“It was difficult. It was rough and people were attacking him. Seeing that, it was messing with his mind a little bit. I feel that he’s learned from it.
“I know he’ll do well. They wouldn’t have drafted him if they didn’t think he could handle adversity.”
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette.