Rookies DeCastro, Adams busy as minicamp begins
Willie Colon couldn’t help himself. When rookies David DeCastro
and Mike Adams walk into the offensive huddle during the opening
practice of minicamp on Tuesday, the veteran left guard decided to
have a little fun at the expense of the new kids.
”It smells like baby milk and pampers in here,” Colon said
just before quarterback Ben Roethlisberger called out a play.
Hopefully, not for long.
The Steelers wasted little time putting their top two draft
picks to work during their first drills with the veterans. Both
players split time with the first team after missing three weeks of
organized team activities while finishing their studies.
Offensive line coach Sean Kugler did his best to keep his two
new projects up to speed, calling them daily to go through reps and
relay questions that came up during meetings.
Adams – taken in the second round out of Ohio State – would
often bring his playbook and his iPad wherever he went during his
final days on campus to help fight off boredom.
”To be honest, I’d be in class watching film and stuff like
that,” he said. ”I kind of checked out of school a while ago,
just wanting to be here, getting back with my team.”
While allowing he’s never ”satisfied,” coach Mike Tomlin
wasn’t displeased with what he saw from either player.
”I’m comfortable with where they are and what they were able to
display today,” Tomlin said. ”Obviously they’re working on
limited time. They need to hurry up to catch up.”
At least they’re here. The same can’t be said for wide receiver
Mike Wallace, who has remained in Louisiana during the offseason.
The restricted free agent has yet to sign his first-round tender
though Tomlin remains optimistic Wallace will be in the fold when
camp starts in late July.
”It’s probably short-term misery,” Tomlin said. ”Hopefully
there will be closure at some point and this will be in our
Tomlin won’t have to push Adams to put his college career behind
him while he tries to shed the reputation he received during a
bumpy four years with the Buckeyes. The massive 6-foot-7, 323 pound
Adams was an All-Big Ten selection in 2010 and made the second team
last year despite being limited to eight games because of his role
in the scandal that eventually led to coach Jim Tressel’s
Throw in his failed drug test just before the NFL combine and
Adams arrives in Pittsburgh with plenty of baggage to go with his
”I think some people question my ability (as a person) and as a
football player,” Adams said. ”As long as I do what I’m told and
do what I’m taught I’ll be alright.”
He won’t have to look far for guidance. The locker room is
littered with leaders, Colon among them.
The affable 29-year-old is now the elder statesmen among the
linemen and is moving from right tackle to left guard. If Adams and
DeCastro both do enough during training camp to be starters, Colon
will have as much experience as the other four starters
Asked if that makes him feel like a grandfather, Colon smiled
and said, ”I don’t know about grandpa. Maybe like an uncle.”
One who – much like Adams and DeCastro – is finding himself
thrust into a new role. Colon appeared to have a lengthy future at
right tackle after signing a five-year extension last summer.
The elation lasted all of one game. Colon tore his right triceps
in the season-opener against Baltimore and underwent season-ending
surgery. Rookie Marcus Gilbert eventually found a home at the spot,
playing so well he’ll likely be the starter there when the Steelers
open the 2012 season at Denver on Sept. 9.
Gilbert’s quick maturation gave the Steelers the freedom to move
Colon to left guard. It’s unfamiliar territory, but one Colon will
”I’m comfortable because I have no choice but to be
comfortable,” Colon said. ”Besides, I get to play next to (center
Maurkice Pouncey). I’m excited. We’re like two nasty dogs.
Hopefully DeCastro can jump along and we can be three nasty dogs in
DeCastro, the 24th overall pick out of Stanford, saves his nasty
streak for the field. The soft-spoken 22-year-old spent his final
month in college completing his degree in management, science and
engineering. His final exams consisted of two projects and a test
in his class on linear optimization.
Math, really hard math, in case you’re wondering.
DeCastro talked about the exam with a shoulder shrug, saying
simply ”it wasn’t too bad.” Maybe, but like Adams, DeCastro is
eager to get started on his first real job.
The two rookies do have at least one thing going for them, they
don’t have to unlearn the system used by former Steelers offensive
coordinator Bruce Arians. They come to the team as blank slates and
their responsibilities really haven’t changed despite the jump from
college to one of the NFL’s top teams.
”The playcalls are different, but the schemes are the same,”
It’s the stakes that are higher. DeCastro and Adams are part of
a young nucleus that will likely protect Roethlisberger for the
remainder of his career. Gilbert is entering his second season,
Pouncey his third.
They will be given time to grow and the team has never hesitated
to thrust young players into tough spots and let them learn on the
It’s what happened to Colon, who started 16 games in his third
season while helping the Steelers to the Super Bowl.
”With the Super Bowls we won in the past, it wasn’t on the
strength of the receivers, it was the on the offensive line,” he
said. ”If we can stack some championships up, that will be a
testament to the offensive line coach and the guys in that room.
Hopefully we do well.”
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