The Steelers went out of their comfort zone in two very big ways, bucking their history and challenging their own sense of rejecting players of questionable character when they drafted Ohio State Mike Adams in the second round Friday night.
The Steelers concluded their second day of the NFL draft by choosing inside linebacker Sean Spence of Miami in the third round.
It's the first time since 1968 that they have drafted two offensive linemen in the first two rounds, taking Adams one day after they drafted Stanford guard David DeCastro with the first pick.
And they dug deep into their research to draft a player who tested positive for marijuana use at the Indianapolis combine, then lied to everyone about it.
Adams, who is 6 feet 7 1/4, 322 pounds, apparently was mortified when he learned he had tested positive. A native of Farrell, Pa., and a lifelong Steelers fan he said, according to his agent, Monroeville native Eric Metz, "I blew it. I blew my chance of being a Steeler."
Metz said he told him: "If you were my son, I'd tell you to get in the car, drive up there, see them face to face like a man and tell them you screwed up. He got in his car and drove over there. It was important to him, he wanted to be a Steeler."
When he arrived, he met with Colbert, coach Mike Tomlin and president Art Rooney.
"We told him he was off our draft board," Colbert said.
But the fact that Adams made that drive, which the Steelers appreciated, led to circumstances that culminated in them drafting him Friday night.
"For me, it was more about trying to get back in their good graces," Adams said. "I knew I screwed up, I was a lifelong Steelers fan. I wanted to show my remorse and let them know I love that organization and will do anything to be part of it."
The Steelers laid out some stipulations for Adams to get back on their draft board, which included counseling. Colbert said he met them all, and they gave him a first-round grade on their board.
Adams laid out what he must do now: "Do the things I'm supposed to do, make the right decisions and produce on the field. As long as I do the right things, I think everything will be OK."
Colbert admitted Adams was a risky pick, but said all draft picks are risks, and that Adams showed them he is serious about making up for his mistake.
As Metz said, "He ate a big piece of humble pie and he's ready to move on with his life."
If he can put the marijuana issue behind him -- he also was suspended for five games last season after getting caught up in the Buckeyes' "tattoogate" -- then the Steelers might have gotten another steal as they pour another high pick into the rebuilding of their offensive line.
In 1968, they drafted Mike Taylor of Southern California and Ernie Ruple of Arkansas, both tackles.
The Steelers now have spent four top draft picks on their offensive line over the past three seasons. They drafted center Maurkice Pouncey with the first pick in '10, tackle Marcus Gilbert with their second-round draft choice in '11.
"I feel very fortunate to have two quality players we feel very highly of," said offensive line coach Sean Kugler. "We had to research it and we feel comfortable with him. He has great size, he has long arms, he can bend for a guy his size, he has a lot of length to him, which is important to the tackle position.
"He has things to work on in his entire game. I wouldn't say he's a finished product."
Kugler said he wasn't sure what effect, if any, Adams' selection would have on their plans to move Gilbert to left tackle. Adams played left tackle at Ohio State, but Kugler said he can play both sides.
Kugler has had to juggle offensive linemen the past two seasons and said that was only out of necessity. His goal, he said, is to have five stable starters and not move them around.
"I don't want moving parts,'' Kugler said.
Today, Adams and Metz will make the drive from Columbus, Ohio, to the South Side facility. It's a familiar drive to Western Pennsylvania for Adams, whose family moved from Farrell to Ohio when he was 12. He said he drives back to his old home area, where he still has relatives, about once a month.
"I love that place, it's home,'' he said.
"This will be a happier drive than his last drive," Metz said. "He's a very, very happy young man. I have the happiest second-rounder who ever walked the planet."
The Steelers consider Spence an inside linebacker although he played on the outside at Miami. He is 5-11 1/2, 231 pounds. He started 40 games at Miami over four seasons.
The Steelers initially will put him behind Lawrence Timmons.
"He's going to help us on special teams," said linebackers coach Keith Butler.
"He's not going to start at linebacker over Lawrence Timmons; that's not going to happen."
Butler said he feels good about the Steelers situation at inside linebacker. Larry Foote will replace veteran James Farrior at the "buck" position with Stevenson Sylvester backing him up.
"Larry Foote knows this defense in and out. He's been in this defense 10 years, so, if anybody's ready, it's Larry Foote."
Butler said he hopes to keep Timmons on the inside one season after he had to play him a bunch on the outside because of injuries.
"I think he's one of the better linebackers in the league,'' Butler said.
NOTES -- Metz disputed an ESPN report that he and Adams offered to postpone a signing bonus for a year and a half to prove he could remain drug free. ... By NFL rules, both first-round picks are ineligible to attend the Steelers OTAs, which begin May 22, until some point in June when their college quarterly terms end. The Steelers OTAs last through their three-day minicamp that ends June 14. They attend a rookie orientation the Steelers have planned for next weekend. ... The draft will continue today with rounds four through seven, starting at noon.
- Position: OT
- Height: 6-7
- Weight: 323
- School: Ohio State
- About the pick: A long, lean tackle who uses his length to get good leverage in pass protection. Gives the Steelers a young talent to use at right tackle if Willie Colon has problems coming back from another season-ending injury. ... Played left tackle at Ohio State, but line coach Sean Kugler said he will be used as a backup on both sides until the team determines where he fits best. ... Is the fourth offensive lineman the Steelers have drafted with the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the past three years. ... Adams, a Farrell native, saw his draft stock decline when he tested twice for marijuana. Steelers had a first-round grade on him. ... Started 25 of 30 games at Ohio State, including his last 21. Had 167 knockdowns and 33 TD-resulting blocks. ... Ran a 5.31 in the 40 in the combine and disappointed with only 19 reps in the 225-pound bench press. ... Tends to take plays off, but looks like a top-10 pick when he plays focused and with intensity. ... Missed the first five games of the 2011 season because of an NCAA suspension for his role in Tattoogate. Despite that, was voted Ohio State's top offensive lineman last season. ... Started four games as a sophomore and every game at left tackle as a junior, when he was named first team All-Big Ten Conference. ... Played high school football in Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. Regarded as the nation's top offensive line prospect.
- Position: ILB
- Height: 5-11 1/2
- Weight: 231
- School: Miami
- About the pick: Started 40 of 47 games at Miami, where he was the defensive captain. Started 39 games at outside linebacker in the Hurricanes' 4-3 front, but will play inside linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4 front. Will begin as a backup to Lawrence Timmons at the mack LB position. ... Ranked 11th in school history with 318 tackles (170 solo) with 10 1/2 sacks and 47 tackles for losses. ... Was the first Miami player to register at least 100 tackles in consecutive seasons since Jonathan Vilma in 2003. ... Not very big, but the Steelers like to keep blockers off their inside linebackers to let them run to the ball. He is very instinctive, quick and smart and able to run with tight ends and H-backs. ... Will play mainly on special teams. ... Provides depth on the inside and gives the team an extra body to replace Farrior on the roster. ... Born in Miami. General studies major.
First Published April 28, 2012 5:45 PM