On the Monday before this three-day NFL Draft began, Kevin Colbert talked about the Steelers making their picks based on "want" instead of "need." In the case of Mike Adams, the Ohio State tackle, it turned out that the player wanted the team more than the team wanted the player.
Mike Adams is one of the most physically gifted prospects available in the 2012 NFL Draft. Size, long arms, nifty feet, Adams passes the eye test. A left tackle, Adams also plays a position coveted league-wide, because there never seem to be enough big, athletic men who can line up over the best pass-rushers the league has to offer and keep the franchise quarterback out of the hospital.
But even with all that, the Steelers came back from the combine in Indianapolis with no interest in Mike Adams. They didn't want him in the first round, they didn't want him in the third round, they didn't want him in the seventh round. Mike Adams, the offensive tackle from Ohio State, was off the Steelers draft board.
Mike Adams had been taken off the Steelers draft board because he failed a drug test administered by the NFL and then he lied about it. That, coupled with a citation in 2009 for possession of drug paraphernalia – the charges eventually were dropped and Adams passed a drug test at the time – and a five-game suspension in 2011 for selling his Big Ten Championship ring proved to be too much. Nothing earth-shattering there, because the Steelers have red-flagged many a prospect over character concerns, and Adams wasn't even going to be the only player removed from their board in advance of this particular draft. But just when the door seemed to be closed, the case took a different turn.
"With any prospect, we always get background information, which we did in Mike's case," said Colbert. "When players are subject to the testing at the combine, we don't get those results until about a week before the actual draft. In Mike's case, he sought us out once he was aware of the situation. He requested a face-to-face interview and meeting with me, Art Rooney II and Coach Tomlin, and we obliged. When Mike came in, we told him that he was off our draft board."
What first made Adams unique was that he had sought out this news, and then it was how he reacted to it.
"For me, it was more about trying to get back in their good graces," said Adams about the reason for his interest in traveling to Pittsburgh to deliver his mea culpa. "I knew that I screwed up. I've been a lifelong Steelers fan. I struck out to meet with them just to let them know what happened and show my remorse and let them know that I love the organization and that I'll do anything to be a part of it."
Once Adams made that offer, the Steelers set the conditions for the possibility of a second chance.
"(We told Mike), these are the stipulations that you have to accomplish for consideration for us to draft you," said Colbert, "and the young man did. He met our criteria, he met our stipulations, and we were comfortable in taking him where we took him."
That would be with their second-round pick in this draft, the 56th overall selection, and so it was that the Steelers had made some aggressive moves to re-make an offensive line that has not done a good enough job recently of protecting Ben Roethlisberger.
"It was something that was really hard to deal with," said Adams about his reaction to being told he had been taken off the Steelers' draft board. "That's the team I wanted to go to from day one. Ever since I started imagining playing in the NFL, the Steelers have always been the team I wanted to go to."
Now he'll get that chance, and what the Steelers hope they get in return is what Adams was supposed to be before the questions about his character began to overshadow everything else.
"He has great size and long arms," said offensive line coach Sean Kugler. "He can bend for a guy his size. He has a lot of length to him, and that's important at the tackle position. He's a physical player and has a size combination that's hard to beat at the tackle position. He's going to have to work on his entire game. I wouldn't say that he's a finished product. Mike is a willing worker, and I'm excited to get working with him."
First-round pick David DeCastro is being referred to as a "plug-and-play starter," and his position is right guard; and Adams is a natural left tackle who will join a group that currently includes presumptive starters Marcus Gilbert and Willie Colon. Add in Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, and the Steelers offensive line has been blessed with a significant injection of talent during the first two days of this draft.
"We're going to see how things go," said Kugler. "We want to get the guys in the best spots. Realistically, I don't want moving parts. It has been more of a necessity for us to have moving parts. We love to have guys at five stable positions and keep them there. We'll get the right five and see where we go from there."
And so it has come to pass that Mike Adams has a chance to be one of those five. It can be looked upon as a second chance, or it can be viewed as a last chance. Today, that doesn't much matter to him.
"Do the things I'm supposed to do. Make the right decisions. Produce on the field. As long as I do the right things I think everything will be OK," said Adams. "I'm happy to be a Steeler and relieved that it's all over. I love this organization, and I'm glad to be a part of it."