Steelers rookie tackle Adams learning on the fly

Associated Press Modified: October 18, 2012 at 4:01 am •  Published: October 18, 2012
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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mike Adams was standing on the sideline, minding his own business when his NFL career got a kick-start.

A minute after Pittsburgh Steelers starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert went down with a hyperextended right knee early in the season opener against the Broncos, Adams found himself lining up across the line from Denver's all-everything linebacker, Von Miller.

Gulp.

"I didn't expect it, but you've got to be ready to play whenever," Adams said. "It was a pretty cool experience."

One that included some very public growing pains as Adams and the rest of the offensive line were roughed up late in a 31-19 loss. The film session was long and painful, with offensive line coach Sean Kugler giving the second-round draft pick out of Ohio State some very pointed criticism.

The talk was a watershed moment for a player not known as a workaholic during his time with the Buckeyes. Adams responded with a tenacity that proved to the guys lining up next to him he was serious about this whole NFL deal.

Good thing considering Adams will make his first start Sunday when Pittsburgh (2-3) travels to Cincinnati (3-3). Gilbert is out indefinitely with an ankle injury.

"Mike's day-to-day stuff has changed a whole lot," Pittsburgh guard Ramon Foster said. "He's more in tune to what's going on. Not to sound bad, but him getting embarrassed like (in Denver) kind of woke him up a little bit. He got chewed out pretty good and he's come back pretty strong from it."

The massive 6-foot-7, 323-pound Adams has long had the athletic ability to flourish. The only concerns were about his attitude. He acknowledged flunking a drug test just before the NFL combine last spring and was suspended a handful of games during his final season at Ohio State for his role in the scandal that eventually led to coach Jim Tressel's dismissal.

Adams pledged during minicamp that he'd put his troubled past firmly behind him and he's backed it up by becoming an eager student of the game. Following practice on Wednesday Adams joined starting left tackle Max Starks and rookie Kelvin Beachum for extra reps taking whacks at a heavy bag at one end of the practice field.

It's a ritual that Adams has joined in repeatedly since training camp, and with his huge wingspan he swatted the bag around like a toddler playing with a favorite toy. On Sunday, that bag will morph into Cincinnati defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who is part of a unit that is second in the NFL with 21 sacks.

No pressure or anything, though Adams pointed to Dunlap's 6-6 frame as something he can get a handle on better than the smaller, speedier Miller. Besides, just about anything Adams faces in a game will be easier than the time he's spent over the last month trying to block James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley in practice.

"When you're going against two of the best in the world, it's easy to learn fast," Adams said. "They're great vets. They teach me things on the go."