Another in a position-by-position series examining the Steelers roster in advance of the start of free agency on March 10:*
(Free Agent Scorecard: None)
The low point came in September 2013 in London, but since then it's been a steady uphill climb for Adams as he works toward establishing himself as a player worthy of being a second-round draft pick. Adams will be a 25-year-old man going into his fourth NFL season in 2015, and in 2014 he started four games at right tackle when Marcus Gilbert was injured. The Steelers were 3-1 in those games, and Ben Roethlisberger was sacked a total of two times. His improvement has been steady since London, but is this the year when he makes a move on a starting job? Or is he going to be a career backup as a pro?
In three seasons, Beachum has made 33 starts, 27 of which were at left tackle, and at no point in his short career has he come across as a liability. He is smart, a hard worker, and he wants to be great, which allows him to accept coaching. It should be taken as no coincidence that Beachum – as well as other individuals along the offensive line – has improved after one year working with Mike Munchak. Just the same, Beachum – as well as other individuals along the offensive line – have to get better if the Steelers offense indeed is to become a unit capable of dominating opponents on a consistent basis.
Signed to a contract extension last summer, Gilbert now has 46 career starts at right tackle through his first four seasons. During his time with the Steelers, the pass protection has gotten better through a combination of things, but the offense still has occasional issues with outside pass rushers, and sometimes with being on the same page when the opponent uses twists. Also an issue to be considered is run blocking, and in this area there is some belief that Adams is the better player. This is the first time in a while where the Steelers have had stability along the offensive line, both in terms of coaching and personnel, and there was marked improvement. But this doesn't mean that any of the players on this unit are finished products. In fact, far from it.
MITCHELL VAN DYK
Another of the players signed to a futures contract, Van Dyk was the first of two seventh-round picks made by the St. Louis Rams in 2014. He is 6-foot-7, 299 pounds and played at Portland State. He will be tried at tackle by the Steelers.
He has been tried at tight end and defensive end, but the Steelers are thinking Villanueva's position might be offensive tackle. He's 6-foot-9, 277 pounds, and after three deployments to Afghanistan as an Army Ranger there isn't anything that can happen on a football field that he isn't tough enough or resourceful enough to handle. Does he have the athletic ability? Has he learned the proper techniques and can he apply them? This offseason and then a trip to Latrobe will answer that question.