Steelers' new linemen will get chance to start
David DeCastro and Mike Adams will work extensively with the Steelers' first-team offense next week during minicamp. And they could well report to training camp in late July as the presumptive starters at right guard and left tackle, respectively.
“I don't have a fear of starting rookies, as long as they're ready,” Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler said Wednesday.
DeCastro and Adams have missed every offseason practice because of their schools' class schedules, making minicamp critical for the Steelers up front.
How much the two have picked up while staying in close contact with Kugler and studying practice video could go a long way toward shaping a revamped offensive line.
“Ideally, when we go to training camp, we want guys in set positions,” Kugler said, “so they can focus on what they need to do.”
The line has had plenty of moving parts during offseason practices, which conclude today at Heinz Field, because of minor injuries and players missing the voluntary workouts for other reasons. The absence of DeCastro and Adams is the biggest reason the only set starters are Maurkice Pouncey at center and Willie Colon, a former tackle, at left guard.
Marcus Gilbert, who solidified right tackle in 2011 after Colon went down with a season-ending arm injury, had been slated to move to left tackle. But the Steelers will give Adams a long look at left tackle, the position he played exclusively during rookie minicamp in early May.
Colon's move inside is another reason Gilbert could stay on the right side. The second-year man has played left and right tackle during offseason practices, but Kugler wants Gilbert to concentrate on one position once preseason practice starts.
“I would hate to have to say to Marcus Gilbert halfway through training camp, ‘Oh, by the way, move to left (tackle),' ” Kugler said. “Marcus did an excellent job last year. He's left tackle capable, and we're going to get the best five guys.”
DeCastro, the Steelers' first-round pick, figures to be one of those, though Ramon Foster has been the primary starter at right guard the past two seasons.
Kugler said he talks to DeCastro and Adams every night and answers questions they have about the playbook or video cuts from practices that are mailed to them.
“It's like having a meeting without them being here,” Kugler said.
Even if DeCastro and Adams prove to be up to speed at minicamp, Kugler will have to write his starting offensive line in pencil, at least going into training camp. As offensive coordinator Todd Haley said, coaches won't be able to make a complete evaluation of the rookies until they see them play in pads.
“But I think we're all excited,” Haley said. “We've got a lot of guys who want to continue to be a part of something great, and that's the goal, and it will start with the (offensive line).”
Notes: Individual tickets to home games go on sale at 10 a.m. June 23. Most tickets cost $66 or $70. There is a limit of four per household for regular-season games. Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-800-745-3000 or going to www.ticketmaster.com. ... The team's preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 30 at Heinz Field has been moved to 7 p.m.
Scott Brown is a reporter for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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