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Steelers rookie tackle Adams learning on the fly

Steelers rookie tackle Adams learning on the fly

PITTSBURGH (AP) Mike Adams was standing on the sideline, minding his own business when his NFL career got a kick-start.

A minute after Pittsburgh Steelers starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert went down with a hyperextended right knee early in the season opener against the Broncos, Adams found himself lining up across the line from Denver's all-everything linebacker, Von Miller.


``I didn't expect it, but you've got to be ready to play whenever,'' Adams said. ``It was a pretty cool experience.''

One that included some very public growing pains as Adams and the rest of the offensive line were roughed up late in a 31-19 loss. The film session was long and painful, with offensive line coach Sean Kugler giving the second-round draft pick out of Ohio State some very pointed criticism.

The talk was a watershed moment for a player not known as a workaholic during his time with the Buckeyes. Adams responded with a tenacity that proved to the guys lining up next to him he was serious about this whole NFL deal.

Good thing considering Adams will make his first start Sunday when Pittsburgh (2-3) travels to Cincinnati (3-3). Gilbert is out indefinitely with an ankle injury.

``Mike's day-to-day stuff has changed a whole lot,'' Pittsburgh guard Ramon Foster said. ``He's more in tune to what's going on. Not to sound bad, but him getting embarrassed like (in Denver) kind of woke him up a little bit. He got chewed out pretty good and he's come back pretty strong from it.''

The massive 6-foot-7, 323-pound Adams has long had the athletic ability to flourish. The only concerns were about his attitude. He acknowledged flunking a drug test just before the NFL combine last spring and was suspended a handful of games during his final season at Ohio State for his role in the scandal that eventually led to coach Jim Tressel's dismissal.

Adams pledged during minicamp that he'd put his troubled past firmly behind him and he's backed it up by becoming an eager student of the game. Following practice on Wednesday Adams joined starting left tackle Max Starks and rookie Kelvin Beachum for extra reps taking whacks at a heavy bag at one end of the practice field.

It's a ritual that Adams has joined in repeatedly since training camp, and with his huge wingspan he swatted the bag around like a toddler playing with a favorite toy. On Sunday, that bag will morph into Cincinnati defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who is part of a unit that is second in the NFL with 21 sacks.

No pressure or anything, though Adams pointed to Dunlap's 6-6 frame as something he can get a handle on better than the smaller, speedier Miller. Besides, just about anything Adams faces in a game will be easier than the time he's spent over the last month trying to block James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley in practice.

``When you're going against two of the best in the world, it's easy to learn fast,'' Adams said. ``They're great vets. They teach me things on the go.''

The Steelers pride themselves on the way they bring each other along, and Adams doesn't need to look too far for someone who knows exactly what he's going through. A year ago, Gilbert was a rookie tackle thrust into the starting lineup by injury. By the end of the season, he was starting on merit.

Adams said he and Gilbert are ``close'' and it's clear the team intends to have the two serve as bookend tackles at some point down the road.

At the moment, the Steelers need Adams to do his best Gilbert impression and just hang in there for a team that is banged up all over the place. Adams might not even be the only backup lineman playing for a team facing a critical juncture early in the season.

Doug Legursky practiced at center on Wednesday in place of Maurkice Pouncey, who is questionable with a right knee injury. Putting together a patchwork offensive line is nothing new in Pittsburgh, where the practice seems to be as much a part of the football season as the Terrible Towel.

``It always seems to happen to us, it does,'' Foster said. ``We've got to reverse this curse, whatever is going on. We've handled it before.''

The Steelers have to handle it again if they want to keep pace in a ridiculously crowded AFC, where nine teams have three losses six weeks into the seasons. The Bengals are one of them, though a win over Pittsburgh would give Cincinnati some breathing room in a suddenly vulnerable AFC North now that division leader Baltimore has lost linebacker Ray Lewis and cornerback Ladarius Webb for the season with injuries.

Adams' job will be to help keep pressure off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and open up holes for a running game that has operated in fits and starts. It's a job he's ready for, even if his opportunity to step under the lights came a little earlier than he expected.

``I think for Mike, this is the perfect process and perfect time for him to come in and start playing,'' Starks said.

NOTES: Safety Troy Polamalu will miss his fourth game of the season with a strained right calf, though Polamalu said Wednesday he remains optimistic he won't be sidelined for a significant amount of time ... Running backs Rashard Mendenhall (right Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday though both are questionable ... Linebacker Lawrence Timmons did not practice on Wednesday with a foot issue.


Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

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Ravens sign Crabtree to three-year deal

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Ravens sign Crabtree to three-year deal

The Baltimore Ravens have signed WR Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal on Friday according to general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome.

The deal is apparently worth $21 million, according to Adam Shefter.

After being released by the Raiders Thursday following the signing of Jordy Nelson, Crabtree heads to the Ravens less than 24 hours later.


The 31-year-old is coming off a 2017 season when he recorded 58 receptions for 618 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2016 he posted 89 receptions for 1,003 yards and eight touchdowns.

Since 2015, the Texas Tech product has scored 25 receiving touchdowns, the fifth-most in the NFL. Crabtree and Steelers WR Antonio Brown are the only NFL players to post at least eight touchdown catches in each of the past three seasons.


In all, Crabtree has played nine NFL seasons – six of them with San Francisco (2009-14) and three with Oakland (2015-17). The former first-round draft pick (10th overall, Texas Tech) has registered 579 receptions for 6,870 yards (11.9 avg.) and 51 touchdowns in 125 career games (122 starts).

“Michael has played very well against the Ravens, so we know firsthand the attributes he brings to the game,” Newsome said in a team statement. “He is a smart, tough, physical receiver who battles for the ball. We like his temperament and believe he is a good fit for our football team, on and off the field.”

Since he entered the NFL in 2009, Crabtree’s 51 receiving scores rank 10th among active wide receivers, while his receptions (579) are seventh, and his receiving yards (6,870) are 12th.

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Ryan Grant's health issue and why the Ravens couldn't control voiding his contract

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Ryan Grant's health issue and why the Ravens couldn't control voiding his contract

The most obvious move in the NFL this offseason was the Ravens signing a new wide receiver (or three). It was less obvious why the team decided to commit so much money to former Redskins receiver Ryan Grant.

Grant has long been beloved by his coaches and teammates, but the results have never been there on game day. He has some potential to improve if given a larger role in a team's offense, which he likely would have had in Baltimore, but it never made much sense to offer him a 4-year contract worth nearly 30 million, with $14.5 million guaranteed.

Thankfully for fans who were uninspired by the reported agreement, Grant was unable to pass his physical and will not be joining the team.


At a press conference Friday morning, GM Ozzie Newsome called the void a "medical decision" that Newsome had no control over. 

NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported that Grant is recovering from a Grade 2 sprained ankle that would need two months rest.

You have to feel for Grant, who by all accounts has worked his tail off for many years just waiting for his chance. It's never easy missing out on nearly $15 million dollars guaranteed, but Grant should be able to find work with another team.

The timing of this news, coming so soon after former Raider Michael Crabtree became available, seemed fishy to some.

At Friday's press conference, Newsome also said the team would have still pursued Crabtree if they signed Grant. 

It's probably not fair to suggest that an NFL franchise would actually so publicly back out of a deal just because another option came along, as any team with that reputation would struggle to attract future free agents. That said, it could end up working out splendidly for the team.

Besides, if all else is equal, shouldn't a team located in Baltimore be going after a guy named CRABtree?