Steelers deal for veteran offensive lineman

October 2, 2013

PITTSBURGH – The Steelers have seen Ben Roethlisberger running for his life enough in the first month of the 2013 season that they’ve apparently had enough.

On Wednesday, the team sent a conditional pick in next year’s draft to Arizona to acquire veteran left tackle Levi Brown. The trade is pending on Brown passing a physical Thursday in Pittsburgh.

The move came less than 24 hours after Baltimore acquired left tackle Eugene Monroe from Jacksonville for a pair of draft picks.

“We’re going to wait and see,” said head coach Mike Tomlin of Brown’s availability for the team’s next game, Oct. 13 at New York against the Jets. “His ability to take in and learn information is going to be an element of it.

“We’re excited about potentially acquiring a veteran offensive lineman.”

Especially after watching their inexperienced left tackle, second-year player Mike Adams, struggle so much in the first four games this season.

Adams allowed three sacks, two hits and two hurries in Sunday’s 34-27 loss to Minnesota in London, while also drawing a holding penalty.

The Steelers knew going into this season, when they attempted to replace veteran Max Starks, who was not resigned as a free agent, they would have to work through inexperience at left tackle because neither Adams nor Marcus Gilbert had ever started at the NFL level. But the Steelers didn’t expect to be forced to make a trade for a veteran.

Starks, meanwhile, has been signed and released by two different teams.

“We knew when you’re playing with young players, it’s going to be a work in progress of sorts,” said offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “I still have great confidence in Mike going forward that he has the skill set, if he continues to work and hone his trade, that he’ll be able to help us.”

Just not right now.

The Steelers will go with Kelvin Beachum or Brown at left tackle, with Gilbert on the right side.

“Marcus is playing at a fairly good level at the right and you don’t want to mess with other guys too much,” Haley said.

Brown, 29, was the fifth selection by the Cardinals in the 2007 draft. The former Penn State standout had not missed a start in four seasons until suffering a triceps injury in training camp in 2012, an injury that forced him to miss the season. He made all four starts this season and has appeared in 81 career regular-season games, making 79 starts.

Brown will earn $3.6 million for the remainder of this season, of which the Steelers will pay $840,000. The Cardinals will pick up the remainder of his $2.4 million in salary. To make room on the roster, the Steelers released cornerback Isaiah Green.

Money wasn’t a factor, however, as much as finding a way to protect the quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 15 times in the first four games, and consistent pressure has helped force five interceptions and five fumbles, four of which he’s lost.

“We’ve gotten below-the-line work, and that’s the reality of it,” said Tomlin, whose team is off to the franchise’s first 0-4 start since 1968. “It needs to be above the line, and we’ll turn over any stone in order for that to take place.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Adams is responsible for four sacks, 13 hurries and six quarterback hits in Pittsburgh’s four games. Brown, meanwhile, also allowed four sacks in Arizona’s four games, but just eight hurries to go along with six quarterback hits. But Brown’s play came with statuesque Carson Palmer at quarterback, not Roethlisberger, who has better ability to elude defenders.

Brown, however, never lived up to the hype of being the fifth selection in the draft, especially when many fans wanted running back Adrian Peterson, whom Minnesota selected two picks after Brown was taken by Arizona.

A fresh start for Brown and the Steelers at left tackle could be what both need.

“It’s not been good enough,” said Haley. “There’s been too many pressures, too many hits. But it’s not just left tackle, it’s across the board. We’ve got to be better everywhere. We’ve got to be better getting rid of the football. We’ve got to be better blocking. When you start getting pressure, it takes everybody. Everybody has got to do a better job.”

Odds and end zones

Tomlin said rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton had surgery to repair a broken pinky on his right hand suffered in the loss to Minnesota. He would not speculate on how long Wheaton might be out. … Roethlisberger (finger), tight end Heath Miller (knee), running back Le’Veon Bell (foot), nose tackle Steve McLendon (hamstring), safety Damon Cromartie-Smith (quad), guard Ramon Foster (chest) and linebacker Kion Wilson (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday. … The Steelers are off until Monday.

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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