The Steelers invested a second-round draft choice in Mike Adams in 2012 with the expectations that he would play an important role in protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from opposing pass-rushers.
After Adams failed to live up to those expectations in the first four games this season, the Steelers demoted him and traded for his possible replacement Wednesday when they sent a conditional draft pick to the Arizona Cardinals for former first-round pick Levi Brown.
"It's a business," Adams said Wednesday after practice. "If we're not getting the job done, they have to do what they have to do. I'll just continue to try to get better and keep competing."
Adams had problems in pass protection the first three games, but his struggles were highlighted in the loss Sunday against Minnesota in London when he allowed Jared Allen to sack Roethlisberger three times. He also allowed Roethlisberger to be hit and hurried on other occasions.
It has been a difficult four months for Adams, the team's rookie of the year in 2012 after starting six games at right tackle. Adams was stabbed in the stomach and forearm June 1 outside a South Side establishment. He had surgery to repair wounds and missed several weeks of offseason training before camp.
Adams was cleared to practice at training camp, and the coaches showed faith in him by moving him to left tackle, an important position because the left tackle protects the quarterback's blind side. Marcus Gilbert, who played left tackle throughout the spring and the first few weeks of camp, moved to right tackle.
When asked if the stabbing adversely affected his level of preparation for the season, Adams said it did not.
Coach Mike Tomlin met with Adams before practice and explained why the move was made.
"He just wants more consistency," Adams said. "That was the main point, technique-wise. I'll just keep working on that."
Adams, who played in college at Ohio State, said he still feels like he has a future with the Steelers.
"I definitely think so or I wouldn't be here right now," he said. "I think I just need to work on my consistency in order to be able to contribute more to the team."
Other players in the locker room found out about the trade from reporters upon entering the locker room after practice or from social media.
"I don't have much of a reaction," Roethlisberger said. "I obviously know the name. It's Pittsburgh West out there [in Arizona], so it makes sense. We'll just have to see what the plan is for him and the other guys that are here."
The Steelers are off this week and don't play again until Oct. 13 at the New York Jets. The players departed the locker room after practice Wednesday and will not report back to work until Monday. Under the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL, players are given four off days on the off week.
It was unclear Wednesday how that rule would affect Brown, who has to learn a new playbook and terminology.
Whether Brown starts against the Jets, Roethlisberger said, will depend on how he approaches the next few days.
"We'll see," Roethlisberger said. "It depends on how much works he wants to put in. How much does he want to be here? Is he going to be here all weekend? Does he want to put the time and effort into be that guy? Who knows if he is that guy? Is it [Kelvin ] Beachum or Mike? We don't know. I guess it will be a matter if he can learn the offense when he gets here."
One move the Steelers did not consider was moving Gilbert back to left tackle. According to Gilbert, the coaches did not want to take him out of his comfort zone.
"I know with Coach Tomlin, switching a guy out of his comfort level is not something he wants to do," Gilbert said. "I've been playing on the right side. It would be hard for me to flip back over to that side after getting adjusted to the right side again. It was a great move leaving me over there instead of worrying about switching me over again to the left side."
Gilbert has an idea what Adams is going through. He saw firsthand what it was like to play left tackle throughout the spring and the early part of training camp.
"Playing left tackle is hard," Gilbert said. "I think they still believe in Mike. They've seen it from him before.
"He just has to go out there and believe in himself and continue to work and not get down on himself. As a man, you go through adversity, and he has to fight through that and get better and put everything on the line for the team."Steelers
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1.