LATROBE – Mike Adams finished his third consecutive practice at left tackle and appears to be a natural fit there for the Steelers.
Adams swapped spots with current right tackle Marcus Gilbert last Friday night and has proven capable at his college position.
“He’s doing a good job there,” said new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. “We’re just trying to find the right combination. It’s still early. We’re going to try to get the best pass protector over there and these guys are both battling to see who does it. Nothing’s set in stone. We still have four preseason games, a bunch more practice. We’re just trying to find the best combination.”
Here’s the breakdown of Adams and Gilbert:
* Adams is a 6-7, 323-pound left-hander who started 24 games at Ohio State, all at left tackle. As a rookie last year with the Steelers, he started 6 games at right tackle and was credited by STATS Inc. with having allowed 5 sacks.
* Gilbert is a 6-6, 330-pound right-hander who started 27 games at Florida (14 at right tackle, 13 at left tackle). In two seasons with the Steelers, he’s started 19 games at right tackle and been credited with having allowed 7 sacks.
“The key will be who’s more comfortable coming out of his stance on the left side,” said former Steelers tackle Tunch Ilkin. “Marvel (Smith) was left-handed and so was Max (Starks), and they were both more comfortable on the left side.”
When the move was made, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, “If Ike Taylor was playing left corner and being swapped to right corner. It’s about the same thing.”
“It’s not,” Ilkin said. “Moving from left tackle to right tackle, or vice versa, means you’re playing a totally different position. It's not an easy move.”
Bicknell said the decision will be made largely on that comfort factor, not so much on how well the tackles play alongside the corresponding guards.
“That has something to do with it, but it’s the NFL,” Bicknell said. “Guys gotta be ready to work. You hope you can get it to jell as we get going. As we get into the first game you hope you can keep the same lineup then, and then they can get used to each other. But right now we’re just throwing guys in, trying to get the best combination, then we try to jell it.”
Kevin Colbert holds his breath while the Steelers continue to tackle in live drills, but Tomlin’s loving it.
Live tackling, Tomlin feels, is the only way to get the practice speed turned up high enough to teach the line and running backs the right way to run the zone plays.
The Steelers began live tackling last Monday, had Tuesday off, and have continued to tackle since, and will continue today before taking another Tuesday off.
Today marks the end of the single-most difficult stretch of camp, but Tomlin wouldn’t call these days the proverbial “dog days.”
“I’m enjoying it,” he said. “Not the dog days for me.”
Troy Polamalu headed an all-star cast of players who didn’t practice on Sunday. The list also included Lawrence Timmons, Curtis Brown, Jarvis Jones, Nick Williams, Brian Rolle, Terry Hawthorne, Matt Spaeth, Ross Ventrone, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Cortez Allen, Curtis McNeal, Adrian Robinson, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Larry Foote.
Allen and Spaeth both underwent minor knee procedures and are likely out for two weeks. Timmons had a death in the family. The rest are explained as “nicks” that don’t concern the coaches. Tomlin was asked only about Polamalu’s injury.
“He’s got a contusion to the birth certificate,” Tomlin said with a smile. “You know, it’s from the ’70s. He’ll be OK.”