There were enough ugly memories from the Steelers’ preseason Week 3 loss to the Broncos to keep Steelers fans worrying for weeks.
But when I fired up the DVR and went back to rewatching the offensive line play, I found something surprising and absolutely encouraging. Whether you believe it or not, Flozell Adams looked like the player the Steelers were hoping they got when they signed him.
In the first two games of the preseason, Adams had some pretty disastrous moments. He was fine in run blocking, but if the Steelers called a pass play, Byron Leftwich or Ben Roethlisberger needed to always keep an eye on what Adams was doing (or not doing).
Against Denver Adams was able to work without supervision. Play after play he handled his man without help, and every now then he flashed signs that he can punish people in the run game.
I plan to have a breakdown of the remaining offensive linemen who are battling for roster spots on Wednesday or Thursday, but I wanted to get the look at Adams as soon as possible since right tackle is the one position among the starters where the Steelers still have some uncertainty.
In watching Adams’ work on Sunday night, it’s hard to find a lot to complain about. He did get flagged for one false start penalty and he was beaten once (although Mewelde Moore was partly to blame) on a quarterback pressure. But otherwise, in 44 snaps he was outstanding. By my rough grades of whether it was an effective block or not, I had Adams succeeding on 41 of 44 plays (93 percent). As I try to mention every time, I’m not looking at technique, just results, and there is a slight chance that a result could be misinterpreted because we don’t know the play call, but I try to err on the side of giving the benefit of the doubt to the offensive lineman.
I make that disclaimer every week, but here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Feel free to fire up your own DVR to see. On the first play of the third quarter Adams’ man quickly beat him. It looks like a blown block, but considering the play was a run to the other side of the field with a fake bootleg back to the right, it’s highly possible that Adams was told to let his man take himself out of the play. In that case, we call that a successful block because whether Adams shoved him or just let him by, his man was running completely away from the ball carrier.
In pass blocking, Adams showed few of the problems with speed rushers or counter moves back to the inside. It’s hard not to think that part of that can be explained by the Broncos’ lack of pass-rushing talent — with Pro Bowler Elvis Dumervil injured, Jarvis Moss and others do no look capable of stepping up. Moss in particular tried several times to run over Adams with a bull rush. One look at Moss’ relatively skinny frame compared to Adams’ mammoth girth explains why that won’t work. On another play Adams did allow a big hole to his inside because of his worries about a speed rush. But unlike last week, he was able to recover with a well-timed pop that stopped the rusher in his tracks.
But what really helped Adams out was the good use of his hands. There were several plays where a pass rusher had a half-step on him on a race to the corner. But a well-timed shove sent the rusher flying well past the quarterback. One time Adams used his strength to particularly devastating effect — check out the block he laid on Trai Essex’s man with 9:57 to go in the third quarter. With one shove, Adams knocked D.J. Williams to the ground like he was a blocking dummy. If there was any question on if Adams will be starting Game 1, his effort against the Broncos should erase that question.
|Play No.||Results||Good Block?|
|1||Solid block, sets a little wide but slides inside well to pick up OLB on Wallace’s catch and run||Yes|
|2||Helps out Essex on DE, then tries to pick someone else up, but finds no one to block||Yes|
|3||Kind of plodding. Helps Essex then picks up LB. But while he looks slow, once he gets hands on LB, he tosses him aside like a blocking dummy||Yes|
|4||DE loops outside. Adams swallows him up easily||Yes|
|5||Does good job blocking left on run. Seals corner allowing Mendenhall to cut back||Yes|
|6||Looks around. No one to block||Yes|
|7||On run up middle, Adams drives his man to the right||Yes|
|8||The DT/slide to pick up LB again. Pulls off both parts of the two-fer||Yes|
|9||Not much to do, pass other way. Does hustle downfield||Yes|
|10||Quick pass, blocks down effectively||Yes|
|11||Good job of 1-on-1 pass blocking of LB||Yes|
|12||Dominates his man in pass blocking—stuffs him at line||Yes|
|13||Only an OK job. Locks up his man, but doesn’t keep him from flowing down line to help on tackle||Yes|
|14||Wow. Got the LB to give a Duran-esque No Mas. Just engulfed him until he stopped rushing.||Yes|
|15||DT slide to LB works again. Good job of handling LBs tonight||Yes|
|16||Flawless again in pass blocking.||Yes|
|17||Picks up LB, drives him outside||Yes|
|18||Takes DE out of the play. Eventually helps put him on ground||Yes|
|19||Again walls off DE in pass blocking||Yes|
|20||Helps Essex on DE. Easy block||Yes|
|21||Gets decent push on run up middle||Yes|
|22||Initial pass block is good, but loses his man as Dixon rolls out||Yes|
|24||Gets to corner well which allows him to easily handle OLB in pass rush||Yes|
|25||OLB’s spin move causes him to stumble, Adams in good position||Yes|
|26||First time he almost gets beat, sets wide, but gets his left arm on OLB’s inside move and stops him||Yes|
|27||Excellent arm over to throw DE outside on draw. Then picks up CB downfield (although he shows mercy)||Yes|
|28||Destroys bull rush. Don’t bull rush Flozell||Yes|
|29||Same thing—straight ahead rush against him goes nowhere||Yes|
|30||Is destroying Jarvis Moss play-after-play. For some reason Moss tries to use power again||Yes|
|31||With DE taking very wide set, helps out Spaeth on pass block||Yes|
|32||Almost beaten but recovers to maintain position with excellent punch||Yes|
|33||Adams’ worst block of the night. Mewelde Moore helps chip #52 on speed rush, but that only seems to help #52 get around Adams for QB pressure||No|
|34||Lets his man go by, although it’s fake bootleg, so could be by plan||Yes|
|35||Shoves CB blitzing outside||Yes|
|36||Fires off ball, finds LB and seals him inside||Yes|
|37||DT with Essex than knocks LB back||Yes|
|38||Making it look easy in pass block. Why would anyone try to run over Flozell?||Yes|
|39||Destroys DE again. Eventually puts him on ground||Yes|
|40||Excellent job of turning his man on run his way||Yes|
|41||Not so good. Loses his man on run outside.||No|
|42||WOW. Punches Essex’s man, he drops like he’s been shot||Yes|
|43||Excellent job driving blitzing DB way to outside||Yes|
|44||Throws his man onto ground on fourth and 1||Yes|