Steelers' offensive tackle switch likely is a permanent one
August 9, 2013 4:00 PM
Offensive tackle Mike Adams drops back to protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during afternoon practice Thursday at Saint Vincent College.
Guard Chris Hubbard cools off during afternoon practice at Saint Vincent College.
By Gerry Dulac Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The switch of Mike Adams to left tackle and Marcus Gilbert back to right tackle might not be decreed as permanent yet by coach Mike Tomlin.
But it might only be a matter of time before it is.
Unless the Steelers see something disturbing from one of the two young offensive tackles in their preseason opener Saturday night against the New York Giants at Heinz Field, they likely will keep the combination intact heading into the regular season.
"It's been interesting and it has produced some positive results," Tomlin said of the switch.
The reason the Steelers made the switch is surprising. They came to training camp with Gilbert at left tackle because they believed he was better in pass protection than Adams, who is considered a good run-blocker.
But, after flip-flopping the tackles earlier this week and watching them in practice, they believe Gilbert is a much better run-blocker on the right than he is on the left. And the Steelers, like most NFL teams, are a right-handed running team.
"I think from playing on the right before I'm just more comfortable with what I'm doing," Gilbert said.
What's more, the Steelers apparently believe Adams can handle left tackle because they are not into conducting experiments at a position responsible for protecting the blind side of $100 million quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But that is what they want to find out, beginning against the Giants and continuing through the preseason.
Adams, a No. 2 draft choice in 2012, struggled at times in pass protection, especially when he lined up on the left side.
"I'm not ready to say it's permanent. I am ready to say it's permanent for Saturday night," Tomlin said.
"We'll see what it looks like inside a stadium and kind of go from there."
Making way for Bell
Tomlin said his starters likely will play approximately 10 to 12 snaps against the New York Giants.
Steelers vs. New York Giants, Preseason Game 1.
KDKA, NFL Network.
One of those players who will get playing time with the first-team offense will be rookie running back Le'Veon Bell.
"Don't be surprised if you see Le'Veon getting some snaps with those guys," Tomlin said. "I think he has earned that.
"I think how he is running the ball speaks for itself.
"Don't be surprised to see him getting some snaps after those guys are out of the game, as well. He, like a lot of guys, we need to get a lot of exposure to."
Bell, the team's No. 2 draft pick, has been very impressive at training camp, especially with the way he has fit in with the team's new outside zone-blocking schemes.
His debut against the Giants likely will mark the first step on his way to being the feature back by the time the Steelers open their NFL regular season schedule against the Tennessee Titans.
Tomlin did not indicate how he will use the other running backs, including incumbents Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer.
But it is clear the Steelers are clearing the path for Bell to be their workhorse.
The Steelers also want to see newcomer LaRod Stephens-Howling in third-down situations -- a role they envision for him in the regular season.
4 QBs due to play
Tomlin also said he will use all four quarterbacks against the Giants, including rookie Landry Jones, the team's fourth-round pick who has struggled in the first two weeks of training camp.
Roethlisberger will start and likely play one series, depending on the number of snaps. He will be replaced by Bruce Gradkowski, the former Seton-LaSalle High School quarterback who will make his Steelers debut. John Parker Wilson, a fourth-year pro from Alabama, is the other quarterback on the roster.
"[Jones has] done some good things, but, obviously, what he does in stadiums is really going to be the litmus of where he is," Tomlin said of the rookie from Oklahoma, where he started 50 of 52 games.
"This is a guy that threw for 16,000 yards or whatever in college. So, the throwing of the football or the mechanics of the position, particularly in a practice setting, is not going to be foreign to him. But playing a game in a stadium with a live rush and those things, I think we're going to find out a lot about where he is after Saturday night."
Jones, who set school and Big 12 Conference records with 16,646 passing yards and 123 touchdowns, is looking forward to just playing a game again.
"I haven't played a game in a year, so I'm pretty eager to get back at it," Jones said. "Anybody can do it in practice. "It's what you can do in game that really counts."