Meet the New Steeler: Keion Adams
It isn’t that easy to get back in the saddle again after an extended break. As I mentioned in my note at the end of Ivan’s last article, I’ve been running around Europe lately, playing with my grandchildren and playing recitals. The former is a lot easier than the latter, which involves endless negotiations for rehearsal time, how loudly you can play while the tourists are filing past to look at Shakespeare’s grave, and so on.
But I’m back in the Burgh, and it’s time to look more closely at some of the new Steelers. I wasn’t sure where to start, so I went to Steelers.com and had a quick look around. They had pictures of the whole roster, and the first picture up was this year’s seventh-round pick, Keion Adams. This seemed like a sign, rather like when you close your eyes, put your finger on a random Bible verse, and discover that you need to take your car in for its annual inspection. (At least that’s how I interpreted Joshua 6:27—”Joshua’s triumph was heard throughout the land.” Obviously it needed work…) As Homer would say, “I’ll be here all week. Be sure to try the chicken…”
So Keion Adams it is. And as I researched this young man, I discovered some things about him that made him an appropriate choice for my writeup. The first one was quite a surprise. It turns out that he, like Javon Hargrave before him, hails from the town of my birth, Salisbury, N.C. Salisbury is not a large place, and as far as I know is not considered a hotbed of football talent, so this seems quite a coincidence.
Like Hargrave, Adams comes from a small college. In his case it was Western Michigan. He was not highly recruited—quite the contrary. He was recruited by Western Michigan assistant coach Bill Kenney after Ball State retracted their offer, and that was it So he headed north, and as he told the Salisbury Post :
[It was] the best decision of my life,” Adams said. “I needed to get away from a lot of negativity, and start fresh. Kalamazoo changed my life and not just on the football field. I grew up. I matured. I’m a different person now than when I left Salisbury.”
The big issue for Adams entering the draft was his position. He played defensive end for four years at Michigan, but he is distinctly too small for an NFL DE. Adams was certainly versatile in high school, where his coach lined him up at fullback, tight end, safety, and whatever else he needed, but that’s not a lot of help now. Adams was definitely aware of the issue, though:
“Obviously I’ll play anywhere in the NFL someone wants me to and I’ll do anything a team asks,” Adams said. “But if you told me I could pick my position, I’d pick outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. I’m athletic enough to make plays there, but that’s something I’m going to have to prove…”
At least one member of the local press seems to be in Adams’ corner. Paul Zeise of the Post-Gazette wrote in early May:
Adams is a bit of a sleeper pick, and he is the kind of player teams love to find in the late rounds of the draft. He has all the raw skills — speed, explosiveness off the ball, good instincts — to be a great pass rusher. The key word, though, is raw, as he has a lot of refining to do on his technique.
He is also undersized, but undersized players make it all the time. That’s mostly because there is no real way to measure a man’s heart, work ethic and desire. If those three things truly are the difference between making it and not, then my money is on Adams to become a good NFL player.
Adams has to get stronger if he wants to be an every down player, but he could be a pass-rush specialist almost immediately. He will struggle against the run initially because of is size, but he wasn’t drafted to be a run stopper.
He is a pure pass rusher, and if you watch his film like I have, his first step explosion and his ability to blow past offensive linemen jumps off the screen. His athletic ability and speed made him an intriguing prospect, but the Steelers also love his attitude, how coachable he is and his work ethic.
Certainly Adams believes it is possible. As he told Zeise, James Harrison is an inspiration and motivation for him:
It really shows you that no matter what the situation, you can accomplish anything and get to where you need to be as long as you put your mind to it. I just want to work hard, learn and make sure I am doing everything I need to do to get there.
As my long-time readers know, I’m very interested in how a player used the educational opportunity he was given, and I’m happy to report that Adams majored in Criminal Justice, and is only a few hours away from being able to graduate. It sounds as if he is going to do his best to take advantage of the opportunity being drafted by the Steelers represents as well. And heaven knows we could use another good pass rusher. So welcome to the Steelers, Mr. Adams, and we look forward to watching you at Training Camp.