LATROBE – Mike Adams said he can’t talk about the night he was stabbed on the South Side, nor does the big, quiet, Steelers right tackle want to talk about much of anything else.
But the people around him are doing enough talking for him.
“He’s looking really good and he’s only going to get better,” said the man who lines up next to him, David DeCastro. “He’s still healing up. He’s still getting his legs back under him, because he didn’t do anything for five or six weeks, so the fact he’s playing the way he is now is good to see.”
“I think he’s doing pretty darn good,” said the man who lines up across from him, LaMarr Woodley. “Being stabbed and being in the hospital I’m sure took away from his time from working out. But I think he’s definitely getting back to where he needs to be.”
Woodley, in fact, was planted twice by Adams in one-on-one drills Monday. Adams pancaked Ziggy Hood in the next session on Wednesday.
Adams is showing more aggressiveness in his play than he did a year ago, and quicker feet and better body positioning. And he’s taking to the outside zone plays exactly as the coaching staff had hoped. After all, Adams was clearly an asset to the run game in his six rookie starts last season.
Critics still point out that his hand fighting needs to improve, and that his pass-blocking will continue to lag until those hands improve. Last year Adams was credited with having allowed 5 sacks in his limited action.
“I think I can definitely make some vast improvements in that this year,” said Adams, who feels he’s already made some improvements “just by going out every day and taking pass sets on the right side. I’m now comfortable doing that. Being predominantly left (tackle) my whole career, and then switching over, was something that was kind of difficult for me, but I think now I’ve got a good grasp of it.”
Of course, it didn’t help that he had to miss two weeks of spring practice and six weeks of conditioning after he was jumped by three men and stabbed in the abdomen in the wee hours of June 1 on the South Side of Pittsburgh.
But Adams reported to training camp with the rest of the team and hasn’t been given one rep, one lap, one pushup off as a form of precaution. In fact, he doesn’t even get an “atta boy” from the coach for his performance thus far “in light of what happened.”
“I’m not going to ever describe Mike Adams’ performance ‘in light of what happened,’” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “When the doctors told me he had a clean bill of health, that’s in our rearview mirror. I’m not going to judge him on a curve in regards to what happened. He’s here to play football, earn a job, and be a positive contributor to our efforts. He gets no extra credit for that.”
Adams will only say “I’m all good” and won’t discuss anything remotely connected to the incident. That was left up to his best friend, DeCastro, who awoke the morning after the stabbing to an explanatory text.
“Man, I was shocked. And I was disappointed and saddened,” said DeCastro. “It was just so senseless. That’s what I didn’t get. I couldn’t grasp why. I was glad he was OK. That was the saving grace of it all.”
The other saving grace might be that the two linemen who were picked back-to-back to open last year’s Steelers draft, and who’ve ended up starting next to each other to start this camp, have developed an even thicker bond.
“We’re good buddies, really good friends off the field,” DeCastro said.
“It’s good to be next to each other. We get along well, communicate well, so I’m glad to be able to play next to him.”
DeCastro feels that this line, made up of five players who’ve never started a game together, will mesh quickly, in spite of traditional logic that says offensive lines need at least a year together to become cohesive.
“I think as you get older and into the NFL it takes less time because you’re experienced,” DeCastro said. “Maybe in college it would be a little different. We’re all experienced guys. We know the offense now, and we’re older now, in our second year. It’ll be good.”
“That offensive line, they’ve got a tight group,” Woodley said. “Man, I think they’re going to be great.”