By RICK GOSSELIN / The Dallas Morning News
Column by RICK GOSSELIN / The Dallas Morning News | [email="firstname.lastname@example.org"]email@example.com[/email]
I always thought Flozell Adams was the prototypical NFL right tackle.
The Pittsburgh Steelers must feel the same way. Signed by Pittsburgh on the eve of training camp, Adams moved from the left side to the right for the first time in his 13-year NFL career and has become a blocking anchor for the Steelers. Pittsburgh ranks 11th in the NFL in rushing and sits atop the AFC North with a 5-1 record.
"Flozell started off a little slow in training camp, which was to be expected because he was moving from left to right tackle," Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler said. "Then he had to learn a whole new [offensive] system. But he's playing with a high level of effort and his mental errors have been minimal. We've gotten a lot of quality play out of Flozell. We're excited to have him here."
Adams started out at right tackle as a sophomore and junior at Michigan State in 1995-96 but moved to the left side as a senior in 1997. That's where the money was in the NFL – and that's where Adams knew he needed to play to cash in.
Adams was selected the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year as a senior and became the 38th overall selection of the 1998 draft by the Cowboys. He started as a rookie and became a Pro Bowl left tackle by 2003.
Flozell Adams (right) has fit in nicely with the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line.
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Adams wound up playing in five Pro Bowls – but the Cowboys never won a Super Bowl and were not a consistent playoff contender during his 12 seasons. The more he aged, the more penalty flags he seemed to attract, incurring the wrath of Cowboys fans.
Adams was penalized six times for false starts in 2009 and three more times for holding. At 35 years of age, the Cowboys had seen enough of Adams and released him in the off-season.
Through good times and bad, when I looked at Adams and his 6-7, 335-pound frame, I saw a right tackle. I saw him as a massive road grader who could pave holes for elite backs in elite ground games. I always thought the Cowboys were playing him out of position.
That made him an ideal fit for the Steelers. Pittsburgh plummeted to 19th in the NFL in rushing in 2009 and decided to re-commit themselves to the ground in 2010. With Ben Roethlisberger suspended for the first four games of the season, the Steelers needed to run the ball to survive in the month of September.
But Pittsburgh's offensive line suffered a severe blow in June when their right tackle and best blocker Willie Colon tore his Achilles' tendon and was lost for the season. There weren't many options for the Steelers at that late date.
"Flozell was the best one available, the best option for the Pittsburgh Steelers," Kugler said. "It certainly has worked out that way for us."
But not before a shaky training camp. Adams did not participate in any off-season program, so he had to get back into football shape and learn a new position as well.
"I think there was some frustration early," Kugler said. "But he kept plugging. We told him to keep working at it and it'll come, that you'll get comfortable at some point.
"Probably midway through the preseason he started feeling comfortable. You look at him now and you wouldn't know he even played left. He's very comfortable over there in his footwork, movement and sets."
How comfortable? Through six games he has allowed only one sack and has been penalized just twice for false starts. Adams is an appreciated talent in Pittsburgh. The Cowboys are now in his rear-view mirror.
"I don't talk to him much about past situations because I don't know how that benefits him here," Kugler said. "All we're concerned about is getting him up to speed and helping us win games and helping him with his career.
"We don't talk much about Dallas. We talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers and what he needs to do to get ready each week."