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Young Steelers' offensive line growing up fast

| Thursday, May 30, 2013, 11:00 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Steelers linemen (from left) Mike Adams, David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey and Ramon Foster practice Thursday, May 23, 2013, on the South Side.

Steelers wide receivers called themselves Young Money the last couple of seasons. But as far as age goes, they have nothing on the franchise's offensive line.

Unless there are injuries or unanticipated lineup changes between now and the Sept. 10 opener against the Titans, the Steelers won't have fielded an offensive line this inexperienced since 1959.

That's when Dwight Eisenhower was serving out his second term as president and Buddy Parker fielded the second of two straight winning record teams as Steelers coach — the first time the Steelers had done that in 16 years.

For now, the current unit is left tackle Marcus Gilbert (25, two years of experience), left guard Ramon Foster (27, four years), center Maurkice Pouncey (24, three years), right guard David DeCastro (23, one year) and right tackle Mike Adams (23, one year). Pouncey is 23 but has a birthday July 24, right before training camp starts.

The right side of the line — DeCastro and Adams — is inexperienced, with only nine starts between them, six by Adams. DeCastro and Adams were out with injuries for long stretches of their rookie seasons a year ago.

The top backup, Kelvin Beachum? He'll turn 24 next month and has one season of experience, with five NFL starts. He was a right tackle last season, can play guard and is working at center.

Given his lack of experience, Beachum will fit right in on new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr.'s unit.

“Change is inevitable. You've got to go with it,” Adams said Thursday after the Steelers concluded the second of four weeks of offseason practices. “I think we're a young group with a lot of potential. And we're working very hard to turn that potential into reality.”

They've just never done it — at least in the Super Bowl era — with a unit possessing so little game experience. And it won't help that tight end Heath Miller is recovering from knee surgery and probably won't be ready to start the season.

Since 1959, when they started a first-year player (Ted Karras), two second-year players (Mike Sandusky and John Nisby) and two fourth-year players (Ed Beatty and Frank Varrichione), the Steelers have had at least one five-year veteran on the starting line during every season.

Some of those regulars, such as Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson, Tunch Ilkin and Alan Faneca, held their jobs for a decade or close to it.

But Foster, who re-signed with the Steelers during the offseason, is now the most experienced hand. The line has played only a combined 11 seasons and averages just more than 24 years of age.

That would be the youngest offensive line since the 1957 Steelers averaged 24 years.

Last season, left tackle Max Starks had eight seasons of experience, and left guard Willie Colon had six.

“But we've got a guy in the middle there (Pouncey) who has been to three consecutive Pro Bowls and has been an All-Pro, and we've got a guy, Ramon Foster, who has been here four years,” Adams said. “I think our youth is a good thing.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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