PITTSBURGH — Steelers defensive tackle Montravius Adams is set to return from an ankle injury he suffered a month ago against the Tennessee Titans for Thursday’s clash with the Patriots. Mike Tomlin said that Adams is up and fully ready to go, meaning he will play, and the team will have their full defensive line rotation for the first time since Week 1 of the season.
There are no concerns about Adams and his availability this week. In his absence, rookie Keeanu Benton has gone on a tear. Benton only played 25 snaps on Sunday against the Cardinals, which is a highly questionable move. But he is producing when he gets the snaps, and earned the team’s highest grade from Pro Football Focus. With Adams out, Benton played just at nose tackle, but with him back, it should give the team a chance to play Benton more in the sub-packages they started to roll him into before Adams went down.
On one play, Benton pushed center Hjalte Froholdt back into Kyler Murray, causing a fumbled exchange. Adams, when he played, has proven to be a valuable addition, too. If they can work, Benton’s versatility more back with Adams into the lineup, it could help the interior pass rush that much more, and help lengthen the load on Cam Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi.
For Adams, his natural explosiveness and motor pop off the screen on tape. Pittsburgh has a type at nose tackle nowadays, and Adams has been fine previously, but this year is making a much more significant impact in that lane. He ranks 20th in pass rush win rate among interior linemen despite absorbing a double-team 73% of the time. He’s also 26th in run-stop win rate (38%). So, the addition is not one to be scoffed at, especially with how Benton is playing.
However, the staff has to trust Benton and let him play more. As long as they do that, the defensive front could take a step towards being even more disruptive.